I’ve written an article for the Scotsman today arguing that Scotland needs many more immigrants. Aside from all the usual arguments in favour of this kind of blood transfusion I should also have said that increasing the number of non-Scots in Scotland is a useful hedge against being governed by, you know, Scots should we ever get around to voting in favour of independence… Anyway, here’s the gist of the damn thing:
Though polling data says Scots are about as immigrant-friendly as Londoners – and, therefore, likely to be more relaxed about immigration than people in other parts of the United Kingdom – that still means some 70 per cent of respondents agree with David Cameron’s claimed determination to reduce the number of immigrants settling in Britain. On this, as on so many other issues, the difference between Scottish and English public opinion is so small that a visiting foreigner might conclude these peoples could almost share a country.
Perhaps this helps explain why the SNP does not often talk about immigration. The party promises an independent Scotland will &”encourage” immigration but, in comparison to other policy areas presently reserved to Westminster, the Nationalists devote little energy to the politics of immigration.
In one sense this is understandable, perhaps even wise. For immigration policy is another area in which an independent Scotland’s room for manoeuvre might be more limited than it is wholly comfortable to contemplate. Since an independent Scotland would continue to share a head of state and a currency with the remaining parts of the once United Kingdom it may profit the SNP little to acknowledge that border security would also, necessarily, be pooled.
Since no-one, I think, wishes to see Border controls at the Tweed it can scarcely be otherwise. London would surely demand assurances from Edinburgh – much as it presently does from Dublin – that Scotland would not become a &”back door” for illegal migration into England.
Nevertheless, there are reasons, both practical and symbolic, for the SNP to be &”intensely relaxed” about immigration. By definition, the SNP’s manifesto for an independent Scotland is a hypothetical exercise. This being so, its policies are signals demonstrating the kind of country the Nationalists would like Scotland to be. This being so, it is sensible to project a Scotland at ease with itself and open to the world. This Scotland would be open for business and open to talent from around the world. It would offer a confident, positive case for independence rather than, as seems increasingly the case, the small, feart, negative argument that independence is required to protect poor, tiny, Scotland from the ravages of a conservative-led government in London.
[…] Rather than look to Scandinavia for inspiration, the Nationalists could emulate the United States, Australia and Canada. Imagine if the SNP detailed plans for a Scottish &”Green Card” (a &”Tartan Card”?). It could promise to issue, say, 10,000 visas each year to immigrants from outwith the European Union. These visas would grant residence and working rights and, in due course, a path to citizenship. Most visas could be awarded on an Australian-style points system (which would help ensure most immigration is of the high-skilled variety).The practical advantages of such an approach would be considerable.
[…]Emigration is almost by definition an act of entrepreneurship. Though it may sometimes be driven by desperation or an appreciation of poor prospects at home, emigrants bring energy and business-drive to their new countries. We understand this from Scotland’s own experience of emigration to the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Numerous surveys in other countries demonstrate that immigrants (and their children) are disproportionately likely to start businesses. From Google to restaurants and corner shops, immigrant-founded businesses are drivers of economic opportunity and growth. Immigrants offer a kind of economic blood transfusion. Much of London’s vitality is derived from the hot-house effect of being a global city (and London’s striving immigrants contribute to its state schools being the best in England).
[…] After 15 years of &”Tartan Cards” Scotland would have built, in effect, an entire new city populated by ambitious, hard-working &”new Scots” whose dynamism and entrepreneurial zeal would invigorate the country’s economy and culture in equal measure.
Whole article here.Tags: Immigration, Scotland