SNP plan for Scottish visa designed to create a row – John McLellan

There is widespread agreement that Scotland needs immigrants, but the SNP’s new plan for a Scottish visa is more about further dividing the UK, writes John McLellan.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:00 am
Nicola Sturgeon unveils the proposal for a Scottish visa

All political parties agree Scotland faces an economic time-bomb as the number of working people falls while the population steadily ages, and there is consensus that immigration is part of the answer.

The SNP’s solution is this week’s Scottish Government paper, Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper, which argues for a “tailored” approach and again all parties agree the principle has merit.

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How would the SNP’s Scottish visa system work?

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However, the heart of the SNP’s proposal is not so much the concept of a Scottish visa but the devolution of power over it, potentially giving the UK two immigration systems as it now has for income tax.

Australia and Canada are cited as examples where states have more immigration controls, but then none are run by administrations hell-bent on breaking up the mother country. Not even Quebec.

Oddly, the SNP paper also cites the example of social security, much of which was supposed to be devolved, but the transfer was delayed until 2024 because the Scottish Government wasn’t ready or able to handle it.

With standards in schools tumbling, the health service creaking, the taxation system becoming increasingly punitive and uncompetitive, and local government on its knees, no wonder the Scottish Government can’t cope with more responsibility, but that doesn’t stop it picking a fight whenever possible.

The paper accepts a system recognising differing regional and national needs could be run by the Home Office, but dismisses it in favour of power switching to Holyrood. But knowing the UK Government would say no, it’s not really more power Nationalists want but the row.