Devolving Control of Immigration
06 June 2016
There are a number of ways in which someone wishing to emigrate to Australia can obtain permission to do so.
One of these is the Skilled - Regional Visa. If you have a skill which is needed in a particular state, you can apply for permanent residence, but you must agree to live in the state for at least 2 years, keep immigration authorities informed of any change to your address and fill in regular surveys.
So for instance, if Tasmania has a shortage of architects or special needs teachers, potential immigrants can apply for residence in Australia, but on the condition that they stay in Tasmania for a minimum period of time.
As part of the UK, Scotland has no control over immigration. It's a reserved matter, wholly within the competence of Westminster. However, it's clear that Scotland (and other countries/regions of the UK) have different immigration needs from both the UK as a whole and the SE of England in particular. In the current climate, it's the immigration demands of London and the SE which seem to direct our immigration rules.
I've written before about the unfairness and bias of the current rules against areas which do need more immigration in favour of those areas which don't.
The recent cases of the Brain and Zielsdorf families highlight the fact that Holyrood and the Scottish Govt (unlike Australian states) have no ability to manage immigration here. In both cases (and in many other unreported ones) people who are clearly of a benefit to the Highlands are being forced to leave, to the detriment of the community as a whole.
If they've not done so already the SNP and opposition parties should be lobbying for some minor control of immigration. The Scottish Govt should be allowed to issue a small number of discretionary conditional visas to attract skilled migrants to specific areas. The migrants would agree to live, work and school their children in a specified location for a minimum time period.
As well as cases like the Brains and Zielsdorfs these visas could also apply to non-EU spouses of UK citizens, another issue which is stopping young families settling in the Highlands right now. Westminster would still be able to apply a cap on the numbers which Holyrood can issue, so final control of immigration policy would remain with the Home Office.
I believe this is an entirely workable solution, and the idea that immigration must be completely controlled centrally at Westminster is wrong. I hope the SNP take it up.