Should Scotland receive
separate immigration
arrangements after Brexit?

Scotland’s Europe and Migration Minister has called for distinct immigration visas for Scotland once the UK has left the EU.

Ben Macpherson from the Scottish National Party said ‘Ending freedom of movement from the European Economic Area (EEA) will have a very negative effect on Scotland’ and that discussions with the Westminster government were making traction‘.

Proposals in the new immigration service starting in 2021 include a salary threshold of £30,000 for jobs that are filled by foreign workers.

However, Scotland, like all the other regions outside of London and the south-east of England, offers lower average salaries and has higher job vacancies.

It has also been estimated that the Scottish working-age population will decline by up to five per cent after the end of free movement.

Macpherson says the government should offer ‘the best visa to fit the needs of Scotland.’

‘We could decide to have a lower salary threshold, we could decide to have no salary threshold, we could decide not to have an immigration skills charge, we could decide if we wanted to emulate freedom of movement from the EEA.

‘The opportunity of designing the rules and criteria of the Scottish visa could allow us to expand it beyond the EU. This is of particular interest to those who would want to continue to attract people from the rest of Europe.’

He also wants to get rid of the migration target, adding: ‘Currently the UK government has a cap on numbers but that hasn’t worked.  Actually we need to grow our population in Scotland.’

However Scottish Conservative Maurice Golden accused Macpherson of ‘driving a wedge between Scotland and England’.

‘Nonsensical’ Minister of Religion change 

A recent change to the immigration rules has also had an unexpected impact on Scottish religious people. Churches of all denominations have reported difficulty in recruiting foreign priests to cover their duties when regular clergy are away on holiday or sabbatical.

The category of ‘Minister of Religion’, which used to be covered by the Tier 5 entry visa, has now been switched to Tier 2. This costs three times as much as a Tier 5 visa at £610.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland said:

‘Without the support of visiting priests, each parish would be unable to provide the level of service to the local community that it does at present, such as masses, weddings, funerals, comforting the bereaved, tending to the sick and needy, and many other works of charity including food banks and soup kitchens.’

The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Church’s World Mission Council said she had been ‘shocked’ by the ‘retrograde step’.

She added:

‘The benefit of the time spent in the UK is not just to the individual or to our churches but whole communities. Having the opportunity to have a minister from one of our partner churches overseas brings a wealth of learning to people about faith and about global issues.’

Glasgow SNP MP David Linden is demanding that the Home Office reverse their decision, saying:

‘It is nonsensical to expect faith communities, many with little spare money to begin with, to pay more than double the cost of a temporary work visa for a long-term one they do not need.’

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