Scottish independence to change UK immigration rules

27 Jul 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Campaigns are gathering pace for the drive to deliver an independent Scotland and the Scottish Government has stated its intentions to hold an independence referendum in late 2014.

If successful, the country will win its long fought-for independence from England, allowing it to decide far more of its own rules and governing plans. Among the areas that could face change is immigration with suggestions being mooted that Scotland may adopt a more relaxed immigration policy than its southern neighbour.

Scotland has often urged Westminster to send more immigrants north, where some employment markets are struggling, making it likely that it would make the changes itself given the option.

With these potential modifications in mind, Scottish Office Minister David Mundell visited the open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland this week (Tuesday, July 24th) to observe how Ireland tackles the problem of different immigration policies.

Mr Mundell praised the efforts by both sides of the Irish border to deliver a common immigration policy that ensures migrants coming into the more relaxed Republic do not enter the UK illegally, noting that the problems arise due to the Common Travel Area (CTA) which exists between the UK and Ireland (which would cover Scotland as well should it win independence).

The CTA means that once a migrant has gained access to one area of the agreement there are no internal border checks preventing them from accessing other countries, making illegal migrants a problem across all the countries.

Scotland's future is still very much under discussion but First Minister Alex Salmond is pushing for independence in the near future. If this occurs, new immigration rules governing visas and work permits for Scotland could well be on the cards.

Shazmeen Ali, partner at Visalogic, noted that a separate immigration policy for Scotland could prove to be beneficial, from both an economic and social standpoint. 

She commented: "Since this coalition government came into power, their stance on limiting immigration has portrayed the UK globally in a negative light. The current and successive governments have not explored the idea of introducing regional variations to attract companies to areas across the UK that would welcome overseas investment.

"The Scottish government continues to argue that a flexible policy in regards to skilled migrants should be explored to encourage companies and migrants to locate in areas outside London which will result in a greater economic and demographic areas in need of the same."