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Nicola Sturgeon at COVID-19 press conference

Nicola Sturgeon at COVID-19 press conference. Photo: Scottish Government / Flickr / Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerial 2.0 Generic, license linked at bottom of article

With growing support for Scottish independence, Kieran Isgin looks at the widening gulf on handling the pandemic and immigration between Scotland and Westminster

As support for Scottish independence is on the rise amidst a global pandemic, questions are on the rise concerning how Scotland will deal with its borders and immigration policies.

A poll carried out by STV news found that support for an independent Scotland has now reached a record high of 58% with only 39% unreservedly opposing it.

This also means that SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is extremely likely to gain a landslide victory in the next general election. She has already overtly hinted at pushing forward another Scottish independence vote, which Boris Johnson has previously claimed was a “once in a generation vote”.

The UK’s handling of the coronavirus is similar to its recent handling of migration policy, with new laws being introduced it can be difficult for migrants to find the most up-to-date information regarding migration laws in the UK.

Scotland’s battle against the coronavirus

Scotland has also heavily criticised the government of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic where England has seen a higher rate of cases and deaths than every other region in the UK. When Scotland was tightening its lockdown restrictions to protect those most vulnerable from dying from the virus, England was encouraging people to ‘eat out to help out’ which quickly led to a sharp rise of virus infections and local lockdowns having to be implemented across English cities.

This doesn’t mean Scotland was perfect in its handling of the virus. When the Welsh administration announced a complete lockdown on the region, Scotland appeared hesitant to go into a full lockdown. Despite having more devolved powers than Wales, Nicola Sturgeon claimed she didn’t have the authority to put the Scottish region into a full lockdown.

This contrast in how the devolved government has tackled the virus in Scotland has encouraged Scottish ministers to call for an increase in independent power in the region, namely, how they operate their borders and control immigration.

Just this week when Holyrood demanded more power to control their immigration policies they were met with accusations of holding an “agenda of separatism”.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster rejected calls for Scotland to have individual power over immigration for their own borders and said: “We don't think that having different immigration systems in different parts of the United Kingdom, literally putting an economic migration border across this island, would be a way of doing that. It would produce confusion."

While Foster made this statement alongside an announcement that the UK will introduce a points-based immigration system which has apparently been organised with Scotland, such claims have evidently fallen on deaf ears for the Scottish public.

The revived interest of an independent Scotland stems in part from the EU referendum vote where the majority of constituencies in Scotland expressed, they wanted to remain in the EU and are now being forced to leave because of London-centric politics. The Scottish are a proud people and after decades of being told by Westminster that they must step in line and follow their policies they are finally fighting back.

What would Scottish immigration look like?

In the likely event that the SNP won an election in an independent Scotland, they would become the ruling party and would therefore be the voice of majority when it came to immigration laws in the region. It is possible to speculate what policies an SNP Holyrood would push by looking at their current official stances on the subject.

The SNP openly criticise the UK’s “one size fits all” approach to immigration which does little to benefit the economy of Scotland.

Currently, the UK uses a Skills Immigration Charge which charges employees £1000 per non-EEA worker a year which can lead to a shortage of skilled workers and a lack of funding for frontline public services. Instead, the SNP wants to reintroduce a Post-Study Work Visa scheme which has been recommended by the Smith Commission and is supported by all Holyrood parties.

The party also wants to eliminate the discrimination and demonisation of migrants that is currently rife in the UK by taking a more compassionate approach to the immigration process and policy-making, especially when it concerns family migrations.

This compassionate approach is at the forefront of the SNP’s immigration arguments, the party has taken a welcoming stance on taking refugees from war-torn Syria , the SNP have stated that:

“We need to show that we are a country of compassion and acceptance and welcome the Syrian refugees to Scotland.

“We cannot let the actions of the few destroy the safety, the values, the freedoms and the way of life of the many. This is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response.”

The SNP stresses that a robust screening process is currently in place with communications with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) who are responsible for protecting the rights of refugees.

It is clear that, if Scotland gained independence in the near-future, the country’s immigration policy would be better than the current UK rules. The country needs to take a compassionate and responsible approach to immigration policy without the fear-mongering and demonisation of migrants that has polluted the thinking of many parties in Parliament.

 

"Kieran Isgin writes for immigrationnews.co.uk. This is a media platform that helps to raise awareness about migrant injustices and news around the world."

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