There would not be person-by-person border checks between Scotland and England after independence, a Scottish minister has said.
Minister for Independence Jamie Hepburn visited the V&A Museum in Dundee with Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville and Migration Minister Emma Roddick on Friday to launch the sixth paper in the Government’s series which forms the prospectus for an independent Scotland.
The paper proposed a cheaper and easier route for people looking to migrate to Scotland, seeking to set itself apart from the rules currently imposed by the UK Government.
The proposals laid out – in broad detail – five different visa routes that would be made available for people permanently migrating to Scotland, studying, visiting, investing or working in Scotland.
But, questioned on whether that divergence could be abused by someone using the cheaper and easier route to come to Scotland before moving to England, Mr Hepburn said the proposed Scottish Immigration and Border Agency (Simba) would not put checks between Scotland and England.
“No, that’s not our vision for an independent Scotland at all,” he told the PA news agency.
“We will remain part of the Common Travel Area (CTA) that the UK has with the Republic of Ireland, something they’ve had incidentally for the past 100 years.
“We are not looking to create a system whereby there are border checks at the border with the rest of the UK.”
Under the CTA – which allows residents to travel freely within the UK and Ireland – those residing in a country on a visa would need a separate one to travel to elsewhere in the British Isles.
The paper also restated the Scottish Government’s commitment to closing the much-criticised Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire, which the minister claimed had subjected immigration detainees to “inhumane” treatment.
Mr Hepburn suggested that a new facility could be built in its place to house detainees – which he said would be rare – but was categorical that the already overstretched prison system would not be used.
“Wanting to close down Dungavel would certainly not result in us using the prison system for the limited circumstances in which we would have to see some limited form of detention,” he said.
The minister accused the UK Government of adopting a “detention by default” model in relation to immigration.
The Scottish Government has long stressed the need for immigration reform, citing Scotland’s ageing working population and the demographic challenge it presents, but ministers were reticent to put a number on the amount of people needed to come to Scotland.
Speaking to journalists in a briefing after the paper was unveiled, Mr Hepburn and Ms Somerville were asked if the figure was similar to the 400,000 quoted in the Sustainable Growth Commission report.
“We’ve not set a target on migration in this and I think one of the reasons for that if you just look at the last few years is just exactly how many events can materialise in a country, whether it’s Brexit, whether it’s Covid, whether it’s the war in Ukraine and so on that make a real difference to a country’s needs,” Ms Somerville said.
“We’ve got a long-term forecast which shows that we are in population decline and that’s a real concern for the amount of people that we’ve got in the working age population.”
She added that the Scottish Government would look at what sectors and parts of the country needed in terms of people and adopt a “sensible and strategic” way of dealing with migration.