A recent study has suggested that Canada’s immigration system could show the UK government how to tailor UK immigration policies to help Scotland, in light of Scotland’s growing population crisis caused by the imbalance between pensioners and those of working age.
According to the UK government’s current plans, EU citizens who enter the UK between the planned date of Brexit on 31 October 2019 and the end of 2020 will be granted temporary leave to remain in the UK for three years. Scottish ministers believe that if Brexit ends the free movement of EU citizens into the UK, the Scottish economy could suffer significant damage. The government has consistently denied, however, requests from Scottish ministers for devolution in respect of immigration powers.
Based on official estimates, Scotland’s pension-age population will increase by 265,000 by 2041, while the working-age population will rise by only 38,000. Since 1998, Scotland’s elderly population over the age of 75 has grown by 31%, whilst the population under the age of 15 has fallen by 8%. Experts commissioned by the Scottish government predicted in February that if the UK government continued to insist on ending the free movement of EU nationals, then the working age population in Scotland would actually fall by 3-5% over the next 25 years.
Jane-Frances Kelly, director of the David Hume Institute, has been quoted as saying that “There is a compelling case for the Scottish government to be able to adjust immigration to meet Scotland’s unique challenge . . . even without the added uncertainty of Brexit”. It appears to be accepted that Scotland has a different set of demands with respect to the labour pool from England due to Scotland’s low birth rate, ageing population and relatively low levels of net immigration.
The Institute emphasized how Canada’s system allows provinces significantly greater flexibility in formulating and administering localised immigration policy. Canada’s provinces are allowed to create programmes designed to attract the specific type of migrant best suited to the requirements of their local labour markets. Furthermore, within the national points-based immigration system, they are able to negotiate with the federal government as to the allocation of extra points to migrants who agree to live (at least from the outset) within their territory. The Institute’s report also suggested that Scotland could seek to increase workforce participation rates and make greater efforts to attract more workers from other parts of the UK, as well as persuading more Scottish workers to return there.
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