Scottish independence vote throws UK immigration into spotlight

18 Sep 2014 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The impending vote on whether or not Scotland will opt to become an independent country, which is taking place today (Thursday, 18 September) has prompted discussion on a huge variety of topics regarding how Britain handles its political affairs, but along with the currency and business issues, immigration has been particularly high on the agenda.

Scotland's waning population means that should it gain independence, a drive to increase immigration would be desirable. Current First Minister Alex Salmond has noted at several points that the country would welcome more skilled workers from abroad and indeed, tax forecasts have indicated that increasing the population would be a very important factor if the country is to make ends meet.

However, the current British government, lead by Prime Minister David Cameron, has been working hard to reduce UK immigration since it came into power. While a general election is due next year, this fact is still unlikely to change unless the Liberal Democrats win a surprise turn in power as both the Conservatives and Labour are quite firmly in favour of stricter monitoring of visas and migration.

This significant difference in immigration policy between the north and south could result in dramatic changes to the way in which UK visas are handled and the borders patrolled. There is a chance, although Salmond vehemently denies it, that a border check might have to be implemented between Scotland and England, and there is already talk that a Scottish passport might be introduced.

The 'Yes' campaign's official white paper lays out Scotland's plans for the issue should it succeed in its 'bid for freedom', stating: "We plan to remain part of the Common Travel Area [which allows free movement between the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man] which means that there will be no border controls, and you will not need a passport to travel to other parts of the UK, Ireland the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man."

A lot will be decided today and immigration and how to manage it is one of the key issues both England and Scotland will need to resolve should those in the north decide to vote a collective yes.