New rules encourage immigrants to live in Scotland, not England
Immigration rules are to be skewed to make it easier for foreign workers to settle in Scotland instead of England, under radical reforms to be unveiled by the Government this week.
By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor
Published: 4:29PM BST 26 Jul 2009
A new points-based immigration system will give applicants a higher score if they have set up home in parts of the country in need of increased population.
Scotland has been singled out by a Home Office consultation being published this week because its population is projected to fall over the long term.
However, Government sources told the Daily Telegraph that the system could be weighted differently in future to make it easier for immigrants to stay in other parts of the UK, if they are deemed to need more workers.
The consultation is also understood to propose giving applicants more points if they have attributes required by the UK, but will penalise them for failing to disregard British values.
The changes raise the prospect of thousands more immigrants, who would ordinarily be deported, being allowed to stay in the UK if they move north of the Border.
Critics have warned that the policy could lead to Scotland becoming the “back door” for migrants to enter the rest of the country.
But Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, backed the changes, arguing that an ageing population means more foreign workers are needed for the economy to flourish.
“Over the summer we will be consulting on this new points-based route to citizenship and I am pleased to say living and working in Scotland is proposed as one way to earn points,” he said.
“Our need for a growing population is ranked alongside the need to recruit to occupations where we have a shortage.”
Mr Murphy described Scotland's ageing population as “a challenge that cannot be postponed” and argued it should become a “melting pot”, embracing immigrants from Ireland, Italy, the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Europe.
However, he said the new immigration policy must be well managed to “maintain community cohesion and public services”, and to ensure the new arrivals can support themselves and their dependents.
The Home Office draft paper declares: “Attributes for which points could be awarded might include earning potential, special artistic, scientific or literary merit, qualifications, shortage occupation, English (above existing requirements); and having lived and worked in a part of the UK in need of increased population, eg Scotland.”
Under the new Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, applicants will undertake a probationary period before being granted citizenship, a process that could take eight years.
Currently, foreigners can apply for British citizenship purely on the grounds that they are settled in the country.
Last year, around a quarter of a million people passed the citizenship test, which applicants must take.
Migrationwatch said England's population is expected to grow by 10million over the next 20 years if current levels of immigration continue, while Scotland's is predicted to remain stable.
Sir Andrew Green's the think tank's chairman, said: “Any scheme for Scotland must not be allowed to become a back door to England.
“We cannot have the tail wag the dog on a matter that's vital to the future of our society.”
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