THE Home Office has refused to say whether ministers or civil servants read a 94-page report by the Scottish Government on proposals for a separate Scottish visa before it dismissed them.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out her policy for a differentiated system in the major document Migration - Helping Scotland Prosper yesterday morning as she called on Conservative ministers to engage with the plans aimed at tackling Scotland’s post-Brexit needs.

But by lunch time, the Home Office had rejected the request saying immigration “will remain a reserved matter”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Immigration will remain a reserved matter. The UK Government will introduce a points-based immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland. We want to understand the specific needs of the whole of the UK, which is why we have engaged extensively with stakeholders across the UK, including the Scottish Government.”

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Asked by The National if ministers or civil servants had read the document, a spokeswoman added that the department would not be giving further comment or information.

Earlier yesterday, the First Minister unveiled her plans for a number of ways in which a Scottish migration system could diverge from the rest of the UK. Under the Scottish Government’s preferred model for the scheme, which would require talks with the UK Government due to immigration being reserved, migrants would apply separately to the Scottish Government for a visa to live only in Scotland and Holyrood would recommend applicants to the Home Office. Plans were also revealed for pilot schemes to boost the populations of rural areas.

Outlining her plans at an event in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “The hard reality is this - without continued inward migration in the years ahead, there’s a real risk that Scotland’s working age population will fall. The end of free movement will, in my view, harm the whole of the UK, but it will be uniquely harmful for Scotland.

“It’s likely to weaken our economy, damage the delivery of our public services and make some of our communities less sustainable. That is the reason for today’s paper and the proposals it contains.”

She added: “A common, UK-wide approach to immigration simply hasn’t worked in Scotland’s favour for some time now. I hope the UK Government will be prepared to work with us to deliver a Scottish visa.”

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Speaking to journalists later, she said there have been no discussions with the UK Government about the proposal, however she hoped that Boris Johnson would engage with the Scottish Government on the issue and said a “one size fits all” immigration system would be “pretty disastrous” for Scotland.

Asked about the possibility of an outright refusal from Downing Street or the Home Office, she said: “I’m not going to sit here ... and say that they’re going to jump and say yes. But equally, I know what the risks and the realities will be if we don’t have this. If there is a complete blanket refusal to discuss these things, then the view that the Westminster system is incapable of accommodating Scotland’s distinctive interest just becomes more and more of a real thing.”

Scottish Labour and a range of business organisations and think tanks welcomed the plans.

Claire Baker, the party’s culture, tourism and external affairs spokeswoman, said: “Scotland faces particular demographic challenges, and we need a compassionate, fair immigration system that supports our economy, public services and all our people. Therefore, Scottish Labour supports exploring a degree of flexibility within an overarching UK immigration system. We look forward to seeing the detail of the government’s proposals.”

Andrew McRae, Scottish policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The UK Government should acknowledge it is possible and desirable to enable its immigration system to respond to different regions and nations, as well as maintain strict border controls and a user-friendly system.”

Sara Thiam, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), said: “Scotland has distinct needs in immigration. At SCDI we’ve long advocated for differentiation from a UK system which is geared towards reducing net migration.”

Chris Deerin, director of Reform Scotland, said: “We welcome this intervention by the Scottish Government. It is a step in the right direction and, even if the specific system proposed does not come to fruition, it should be taken seriously by the UK Government and treated as the starting point.”