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A Scottish Approach to immigration post-Brexit

Overview —

Devolving immigration and employment law together can give Scotland the opportunity to create a workers rights-based approach to immigration post-Brexit that benefits all workers.

This paper proposes a devolved immigration policy for Scotland that would be designed to meet the country’s specific demographic challenges while strengthening universal rights for all workers.

Credits—

Mark Butterly

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A major Home Office paper, leaked to the Guardian newspaper in early September, has finally given shape to what the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy may look like. Amongst numerous overhauls to the current immigration system, Free Movement will end by March 2019.

The prospect of Freedom of Movement ending in 2019 has particularly severe implications for Scotland. Due to a combination of a lower birth rate and slower economic growth, Scotland is more dependent on migration generally than the rest of the UK. Many in Scotland have disagreed with the UK wide consensus on immigration. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this year that Scotland should offer “a welcoming hand and an open heart to those seeking a better life or wanting to make a contribution here.”

Post-Brexit, politicians’ at Holyrood have called for the investigation of a bespoke immigration policy for Scotland. It is therefore possible that Scotland may have a devolved and separate immigration policy. It is necessary therefore to explore the options that have been put forward to date, and offer analysis of the strengths and weakness of the various proposals. Brexit offers Scotland the opportunity to rethink and reimagine its immigration policy and reflect on the rights that all people living here deserve. Even if Brexit had not taken place there are many areas of immigration and workers’ rights in need of serious reform. The rights of all migrants living in Scotland must be advocated and campaigned for.

This paper will discuss the following points:

• Shifting the debate on migration
• The grounds for a Scottish immigration policy
• The policy proposals put forward to date – values and limitations
• The quest for a broad and universal rights-based approach to immigration and workers’ rights

The author’s intention is to make a case that migrants are not the cause of numerous social ills in the UK or Scotland, but rather xenophobia towards migrants has been stoked and fed by many as a diversion to dealing with the real causes of the UK’s crisis. The aim is to challenge popular narratives about immigration as a necessary prerequisite to advocating a universal rights-based approach to a devolved Scottish immigration policy; shifting the debate from being one about migrant workers versus ‘native’ workers to one about expanding universal workers’ rights for everyone. This would be beneficial for migrants as well as the country as a whole.

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