Kevin Foster: Holyrood asks for immigration powers to suit ‘separatist agenda’

A UK minister has rejected calls for Scotland to be given control over immigration, saying that Holyrood is only pursuing the issue to “suit its agenda of separatism”.

Parliamentary Under Secretary Kevin Foster also claimed that devolving powers on immigration could create “confusion” within the UK.

In reply, the SNP told The National that an immigration system tailored to Scotland’s need is a “necessity” given the “stark difference” in social attitudes north and south of the Border.

They also warned that Tory post-Brexit immigration plans could cost Scotland “up to £10 billion per year”.

Foster, who represents Torbay in Devon for the Conservatives, said the UK Government is focused on establishing an “immigration system that provides success for Scotland”.

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Westminster is setting up a new points-based immigration system that will come into effect after the EU transition period ends.

With some caveats, people seeking employment in the UK will have to have a job offer for a position paying at least £25,600 in order to qualify.

Foster said he has been “directly engaging” with organisations in Scotland about the changes.

He told the PA news agency: “Our focus will be an immigration system that provides success for Scotland, that supports the strategy for the wider labour market, including getting people back into work who have been affected by Covid-19, not trying to separate the United Kingdom and put a border at Berwick.

An immigration system tailored to Scotland’s specific needs is a necessity – even Tory MSPs like Murdo Fraser agree

“We don’t think that having different immigration systems in different parts of the United Kingdom, literally putting an economic migration border across this island, would be a way of doing that. It would produce confusion.”

Rejecting calls for the devolution of immigration, he added: “Just doing things on political boundaries, in terms of the Scottish Government to suit its agenda of separatism, is not for us.”

Scottish ministers and leading figures in the care sector have called for more staff to be eligible for the new health and care visa, but Foster argued the industry should not see bringing in workers from overseas as a “magic bullet” to deal with recruitment problems.

He also said “senior care workers” would still qualify to come into the UK under the new points-based proposals.

Foster added: “I think the lessons that have really come out over the last few months across the UK is the fact that we do need to increase the value of working in social care, we need to have proper career development plans and rewarding packages offered to staff.”

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He said the UK Migration Advisory Committee had “pointed directly to the fact that supermarket workers stacking shelves on the shop floor are being paid and valued more by those who work in our social care system”, adding this is something the Government “need to work with employers on”.

Reacting to Foster’s comments, SNP MSP George Adam said Westminster’s plans to cut immigration across the UK would cost Scotland billions every year.

He told The National: “Just today we’ve seen a poll that suggests two thirds of Brits want to end Freedom of Movement – but we know the opposite is true for Scotland.

“A recent survey found that 66% of Scottish voters would welcome more EU citizens to Scotland. That speaks volumes and highlights the stark difference in social attitudes between Scotland and the rest of the UK on immigration.

“All of Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from migration – with analysis from the Scottish Government showing that Boris Johnson’s proposals to cut migration to the tens of thousands would cost the Scottish economy up to £10 billion per year by 2040.

“The coronavirus pandemic has underlined, if ever we needed it, the importance and respect people in Scotland have for our NHS and care workers – a large proportion of whom are EU nationals.

“An immigration system tailored to Scotland’s specific needs is a necessity – even Tory MSPs like Murdo Fraser agree.

“It’s time the UK Government faced the facts and handed Holyrood the powers it needs to introduce its own system.”

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