Immigration approach 'unified'

Hampshire Chronicle: Nicola Sturgeon says that Westminster is cutting UK Border Agency staff by more than a fifth Nicola Sturgeon says that Westminster is cutting UK Border Agency staff by more than a fifth

The UK approach to immigration already takes account of Scottish needs, according to the British Government's latest intervention in the independence debate.

The claim is in the latest "Scotland analysis" paper on the case for keeping the country in the UK, this time on the theme of borders and citizenship.

The Scottish Government argues that Westminster policy is heavily influenced by south-east England, is aimed at reducing migration and does not support Scotland's "priorities".

But the UK Government, in the 10th of its independence-themed papers, describes a unified approach with Scottish input.

"This is implemented through a complex and extensive visa system designed to ensure only those with the skills the economy needs are allowed to migrate to the UK," it states.

"But within this unified system Scotland's particular circumstances and need for skilled labour are addressed.

"There is a separate list drawn up by experts, based on evidence from employers and the public, of skills which are short in Scotland.

"Immigrants who can address these skills gaps can then apply to come to the UK under our carefully-managed approach to migration."

The Scottish Government's White Paper, published last November, demands a unique approach, run from Scotland.

"The Westminster Government stopped the post study work visa, which allowed recent graduates to work or set up a business in the UK for 24 months, thus retaining skilled and educated graduates as part of the UK labour force," it states.

"Westminster has also set financial maintenance thresholds for most migrants at a standard level across the UK despite variations in average earnings.

"With independence, each of these decisions will be for Scottish governments, with policy choices made on the basis of Scotland's needs and priorities."

The UK analysis paper, being launched today by Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary in the UK Government, also touches on border controls.

Conservatives have argued repeatedly that checkpoints are likely along the shared border between Scotland and England if there are different immigration policies.

The SNP wants Scotland to be a partner in the common travel area which already exists between the UK and Ireland.

A preview of the UK analysis paper makes no mention of formal controls.

But it adds: "While the UK's external border is proactively managed and protected, the movement of people and goods between Scotland and other parts of the UK is currently unhindered.

"Travel around the UK does not require identification documents. There are neither customs inspections nor administration associated with the movement of goods.

"The entire UK currently benefits from unhindered movement between Scotland and England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland's borders with other parts of the UK are busy, both in terms of people and freight movement.

"Travel and the movement of freight between Scotland and other parts of the UK are no more difficult than travel within Scotland.

"There is no requirement to carry a passport and there are no customs inspections or other administrative requirements."

Scotland's Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, wrote to Mr Carmichael on the eve of the launch calling for him to "drop the scaremongering" and adopt "common sense".

She pointed to a decision by the Treasury to accept responsibility for UK debt up to potential Scottish independence.

"This latest paper from the Project Fear library lacks all credibility," she said.

"Firstly, it ignores the 22% staff cuts that the UK Government is making to the UK Border Agency and the Scottish Government's own proposal to establish a Scottish Border and Migration Service.

"Secondly, it completely ignores the reality of the common travel area, in which the UK and Ireland already have no border controls but differing immigration policies.

"Thankfully, people in the rest of the UK are far more reasonable than Mr Carmichael and his colleagues, with polls showing that the vast majority would expect their Government to work with an independent Scotland to ensure continued co-operation within the common travel area.

"Indeed, the only people wanting to erect borders are Mr Carmichael's own colleagues in the Westminster Government, who are threatening to drag Scotland and the UK out of the EU and the single market. It's time for less Project Fear and more common sense."

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