Sun 14 Jan, 2018

Brian Finlay

After reading several articles quoting John Curtice’s findings from his study on Scots attitudes to Brexit, and specifically to freedom of movement and immigration, I was surprised by the outcome and what was covered in the national press.

Headlines asserting that Scots wish to end freedom of movement from the EU after Brexit and tighter controls on immigration from outside the EU. There is a wide spread assumption that the Scottish population is more ‘liberal’ when it comes to politics and public policy; with these ‘findings’ it calls that into question. Yet, we regularly elect a more left wing Scottish Government than the rUK does in Westminster and devolved nations; which seems to reiterate that liberal assumption where is matters, in the ballot box. Let’s also remember that Scotland voted 62% which was a mandate to stay in the EU with all the freedom of movement and trade arrangements that come with being a member of the EU. The study was conducted using random telephone methodology online and using telephone interviews, if my several sources are correct, which seems a valid methodology for this type of survey and reaching a wide amount of ‘random participants’; although it is not without its limitations.

Moreover, the sample size was around 960 Scots contacted at random and around 2100 from the rUK. Academic research, regardless to how high the reliability and validity of the methodology used cannot produce hard solid fact; even with extensive sized samples. It can make assertions and use the findings to suggest patterns or probable expressions of a sample of a population. Now, I’m not questioning Professor Curtice’s academic research ability in the slightest as he has far superior experience to me, but the headlines have taken these findings as gospel. Assuming this reflects the population of Scotland and the values and beliefs based on the data collected. The sample of around 900 participants is only around 0.185% of the population of Scotland, and the 3,000 participants interviewed, from the rUK and Scotland, it is about 0.05% of the UK population. So perhaps jumping to definite conclusions about the Scottish electorates wishing to control immigration in general after Brexit may not reflect the wider reality.

Furthermore, The Scottish Green Party (SGP) and the SNP are calling for immigration to be devolved to Holyrood so we can make decisions closer to home that reflect the needs of the nation. Scotland has heterogenous needs, as do all nations within the UK, when it comes to its economy, population density and support from immigration for public services and seasonal work. We have, unlike some areas of England, an overall declining population and also have an ageing population which is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. The Scottish Government is already under pressure to sort out ‘GP crises’ and ‘ticking time bomb of social care service delivery’, all of which by the way are headlines from the Daily Mail over the last few months, which are serious issues that need do need to be address with strategic planning.

This survey has suggested, to much surprise and sceptical belief from readers, that Scots don’t want immigration devolved to Holyrood. I can understand why some people feel this way as Scottish Conservatives and Conservatives at Westminster have been spreading fear over complexities of this in practice. What utter nonsense spouted, as usual, from Tory MP’s such as Ross Thomson stating it will cause additional ‘barriers’ to people who live and work here and cause ‘chaos and confusion’; with absolutely no details of what these barriers or confusion could be. In fact the UK immigration system, which saw the Brain family amongst other famous deportation cases in recent years, face heartless and incredibly complex universal ‘one size fits all system’ constantly failing people who have built lives here.

There has also been ridiculous terrorism scaremongering used to demonise the proposals. This comes in stories of risk of potential perpetrators taking advantage of mixed immigration laws across ‘our great United Kingdom’ to make movement across different nations. The Home Secretary has also reiterated the negative implications to movement of people across the UK which, in my opinion, could be overcome with open and constructive discussion between both the UK and Scottish Governments if immigration were to be devolved. Different immigration policies already exist in countries like Canada, in the province of Quebec, with no horrific outcomes in movement of people or threats of increased terrorism. This suggests that Conservatives want to hold onto as much power as possible even to the detriment of Scotland’s progress as a nation.

The reality is, we need to have immigration policy devolved to Holyrood to stimulate economic growth and not become the insular nation the UK Government wants us to be Post Brexit. Scotland should be, and judging by the make up of our ‘social democratic’ and more left leaning elected Scottish Government, wants to be an open and welcoming place for people choosing to make Scotland their home. From a practical point of view the immigration needs of Scotland is entirely different to the rUK and we require continued influx of immigrants to work in our health service; contribute to our innovative technology and gaming sector; support us with the huge social care needs of the future; work in our social care to help achieve free personal care to the elderly; help us plug the falling numbers of GPS and teachers and finally make Scotland an interesting and diverse cultural place to live, work and study.

If we do not secure independence, which I hope for more and more as the shambolic Brexit unfolds, Holyrood needs to gain control of our immigration laws. We cannot allow the closed borders obsessed UK Government to restrict our potential; especially when our requirements for immigration are so different from nation to nation across the UK.

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