THE SNP’s immigration spokesperson at Westminster has welcomed a parliamentary report which said an immigration policy specifically for Scotland was an idea with “real merit”.

Stuart McDonald said the report from the cross-party House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee followed evidence from think tanks such as the IPPR and the OECD, Professor Jonathan Portes and Professor Christina Boswell and calls from the Scottish TUC and Scottish Chambers of Commerce for a distinct immigration policy. He said it was clear that the only remaining block on the issue was intransigence from the Home Office and the Prime Minister.

READ MORE: UK visa staff have ‘lost sight’ of purpose as Iranian illustrator refused entry to Edinburgh book festival

Loading article content

The report was also another blow to Theresa May’s obsession with her migration target, and McDonald said her fixed annual target risked “considerable disruption” to the economy.

“This report is very welcome – we have long made the case for Scotland to have its own immigration policy to fit our own needs,” McDonald told The National. “The overwhelming evidence is that this is necessary and desirable, and while work has to be done on devising the best way to implement such a policy, there are a number of options available – as highlighted in a recent report by Professor Christina Boswell.

“It is, after all, perfectly normal to see ‘regional’ variations in other countries. The only barrier to Scotland, the other devolved nations and indeed the City of London having a greater say over immigration, is intransigence from the Home Office and the Prime Minister. It is clearly an idea whose time has come.

“Today’s report also supports our view that Theresa May’s time in charge of the immigration system was an abject failure – obsessed by an arbitrary target, and making decisions on the basis of absolutely rubbish data. She should listen to the wide range of voices now calling for evidence-based policy, removing students from the net migration target and implementing national variations in immigration rules.”

However, McDonald added that “half-baked changes” to immigration rules for spousal and family visas following a Supreme Court ruling were a “disgraceful way to treat families”.

The Home Office on Thursday announced changes to immigration rules for family members as a result of the MM case, which the Supreme Court ruled on earlier this year. They mean that while the form of income accepted as proof of ability to meet financial thresholds will be widened in a limited number of cases, they do not reduce the minimum threshold of £18,700.

The changes were introduced on the last day of parliament before the recess, with the UK Government providing the bare minimum to comply with the judgement, which McDonald said will still mean relying heavily on the discretion of individual immigration officers. “This is really a disgraceful way to treat families and true to form is delivered by the Tories at Westminster on the last full day before recess to avoid scrutiny,” he said.

“Today’s changes are mean spirited and do as little to help families as the government thinks it can legally get away with. We need to drastically roll back on the reforms introduced in 2012 and which have caused so much misery for too many families.”