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SNP MPs renew calls for a ‘Scottish visa’ to boost immigration

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Ministers have faced fresh calls to devolve immigration powers to Scotland.

SNP MPs have called on the Home Office to relinquish immigration powers to Holyrood to allow the Scottish Government to offset the impact of the nation’s ageing population.

The calls came in a House of Commons debate just weeks after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had her request for a “Scottish visa” system flatly rejected.

Aberdeen South SNP MP Stephen Flynn said Boris Johnson’s decision to turn down the request was “despicable”. He added: “If they are unwilling to put in place a system which meets the best needs of the people of Scotland, then they should give those powers to the people who will”.

Stephen Flynn MP

Fellow north-east MP Andrew Bowie offered sympathy for the view but said a Scotland-only approach was not the right one.

The Tory MP said: “We have a problem in Scotland. As a country, we are simply not attracting enough people to live, work or invest.

“According to the Office for National Statistics, from 2016 to 2018, Scotland attracted, on average, around only 8% of immigrants to the United Kingdom.

“We aren’t, even with freedom of movement, attracting enough people to make up for what will soon become a declining population through simple lack of natural growth with deaths already outnumbering births.

“We must think imaginatively about how we address the specific issues in Scotland – and we must do so in an unpartisan and constructive fashion, but I do not think a separate Scottish visa is the right way to go.”

Andrew Bowie MP

Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross agreed that there would “not be a meeting of minds” with the SNP on the issue, noting: “This Government is committed to introducing a new immigration system that works for the whole of the UK – for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“That’s why the Government has engaged and continues to engage extensively with many stakeholders across Scotland, including the Scottish Government but crucially also businesses across a wide range of sectors.”

Mr Ross said the UK Government is committed to developing a system which addresses challenges in the whole country, adding: “We have no plans to devolve powers of immigration.”

He claimed such a move would bring about “significant complexities”.

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