Personal Immigration

Pressure grows for devolved control over UK immigration policy

Amidst recent tightening of UK borders and a regular stream of negative publicity around cases of people denied entry to this country, pressure is growing for separate immigration rules for each UK nation and region.

The case for devolved control over immigration policy has become a key focus for Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government. Sturgeon has led the calls for the UK to pursue such an approach post-Brexit, one which has been adopted elsewhere in the world by certain federalised nations, but there’s also interest in such a policy being applied in Wales and in other specific regions of the country, including London.

Devolved immigration policies are a method which works for countries like Spain, Austria, Canada and Australia. Each has a different take on the principle, and there’s a growing feeling in Britain that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is increasingly damaging the economy of certain UK regions.

Observers in Scotland continue to point to a growing skills shortage and a continuing problem with attracting high-calibre foreign nationals. The same applies to other sub-regions and city areas of the UK, each presenting with varying demographics and labour needs.

Many believe the continuing anti-immigration rhetoric emanating from Westminster is damaging the prospects of the wider UK with some areas hit harder than others, and it’s certainly clear that costs and benefits of migration apply differently to different regions.

One proposal would see a Canadian form of immigration policy adopted whereby distinct parts of the country act according to their own divergent interests and needs.

This approach could work by employers ‘sponsoring’ immigrant employees and by setting region or sector-specific quotas governing the numbers permitted to enter. Politicians would define limits based upon data on workforce requirements gathered at a local level, they would consult directly with employers and communities.

Such an approach would reflect the needs of individual regions but the key to success for this form of policy is devolved decision-making over the mechanics and detail of immigration quotas and permits. In the UK, the structure for this is already in place with regional assemblies and governments. The calls for a change of direction emanating from each of them continues to grow.

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