EUROPEAN citizens could keep their right to free movement in Scotland despite Brexit, a top group of immigration lawyers has claimed.

Experts at the Fragomen legal firm said it would be “entirely possible” by amending legislation going through the Commons.

Tory plans for a new points-based immigration system for the UK have been given short shrift in Scotland, with business and politicians from all parties expressing unease at the impact of making it harder for people to come and work here.

In their report, which was commissioned by the SNP, Fragomen explained: “Free movement is currently given effect through the Immigration Act 1971.

“The Act is likely to be amended by the Immigration Bill 2020 to remove free movement for the UK as a whole.

“A more limited amendment could potentially allow free movement to continue in Scotland.

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“As now, Europeans would be free to travel to Scotland and start work without an immigration document, relying instead on their European passport or other acceptable document.”

The report stressed: “Europeans who subsequently wish to move to other parts of the UK would only be allowed to live or work there having met the particular work, study, or family immigration requirements of that region.”

It also said “emergency visa measures” could be introduced north of the border to deal with “immediate economic threat associated with Brexit”.

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The report suggested the Scottish Government could negotiate a time-limited regional visa arrangement with the Home Office as a short-term measure.

“It would be an extraordinary measure to meet exceptional need,” the report, which was produced for the SNP, said.

Ian Robinson, partner at Fragomen, said: “It would be entirely possible to operate a Scottish immigration system distinct from the wider UK, or even continuing free movement in Scotland.”

He said Scotland was facing a “series of unique migration challenges which are not necessarily felt by the remainder of the UK”, warning the number of people coming to the country could “potentially decline dramatically”.

Robinson added: “With many rural areas of Scotland having a dependency on foreign workers, businesses and sectors leads are echoing the concerns around their ability to retain staff from overseas.

“The UK’s future immigration system may consider these policy options, alongside the success of similar working systems elsewhere in the world.

“Regional migration has worked for other countries, why not Scotland in the UK?”

Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s immigration spokesman at Westminster, welcomed the report and said it “completely debunks the UK Government’s groundless claim that it would be too hard to allow Scotland’s employers additional tailor-made migration options that address Scotland’s distinct needs".

He added: “Crucially, the report sets out how freedom of movement of EU citizens to live and work in Scotland could continue to operate pretty much as it does now – and in fact, this would be one of the easiest options to implement and police.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “Our new points-based immigration system will work in the interests of the whole of the [UK].”