IT’S not a pretty bidding war as Sunak and Starmer slug it out to see who can devise the most The Sun/Daily Mail-friendly slogan. Stop the boats or smash the gangs. Just sound ever-more tough even if the policy cupboard is being run by Old Mother Hubbard.

Nothing could more starkly illustrate the different priorities of Scotland and ­England as the migration debate. Whilst the London-based leaders obsess over how to stop folks seeking asylum from coming to the UK, ­Scotland’s recently published ­census results show how desperately we need new blood.

And how the toxic combination of the Home Office and Brexit has made ­accessing it a thousand times more ­difficult. We need migrants. We need them because so many sectors have been deprived of ­migrating talent, most especially from the EU. A very few years back Scotland’s hospitality industry and its hospitals both benefitted from many thousands of incomers.

Now they’ve either voted with their feet and scurried homewards tae think again about their future, or an ­increasingly ­xenophobic Home Office, not to ­mention a series of appallingly bigoted home ­secretaries has put out the not welcome here sign.

There are of course ways around these barriers. Snag is you need to be fleeing Ukraine or Hong Kong or awfy happy to pick fruit and vegetables for a few months before you qualify for an exceptional visa. Otherwise, legal entry routes are not ­available which, at a stroke of the Tory ­government’s pen, has rendered everyone else illegal. Hence the terrifying boat trips on unsuitable craft.

The impact of not being able to write our own rule book on this issue has had a hugely detrimental impact on almost every sector you can think of.

Universities scurry round the non-EU globe trying to hoover up as many foreign students as possible, given they have to pay their way. Unsurprisingly this tends to ­depress the number of places available to non-paying Scots.

Plus we have no input over who gets ­deported and why. And no say over ­myriad other domestic dilemmas. Last week, I met a young chap who was about to go to Denmark to marry his German fiancée. She wasn’t allowed to work in Scotland and so was volunteering here where she could. Plus they weren’t allowed to marry in Scotland.

So after just three days of marriage in a country to which neither belong, he is coming back to Scotland and she is off to her Berlin birthplace from whence she will apply to join her new husband. ­Craziness on stilts. He doesn’t know whether or when she will be allowed to come back to Scotland. One small ­personal tragedy among so many.

I applaud the notion that anyone living in Scotland at the time of independence should be considered Scottish if they so wish. Just as I applaud the fact that we regard all settled migrants as new Scots and that successive Scottish governments have made it clear they want and ­ welcome them.

It is not that we are free of prejudice, as any non-white or minority Scot will dismally testify. But at least we have a government which sets its face against punishing asylum seekers for wanting to find a better life for themselves and their families. Giving asylum to those fleeing famine or persecution is a legal obligation under international law, though that ­section of the small print seems to elude so many at Westminster.

Neither should we be in the ­business of discriminating against economic ­migration, given that so many Scots have packed their bags to do just that as the worldwide plethora of Caledonian ­societies bears witness. Travelling to the UK to better yourself has a long ­pedigree, as is evidenced by the parents of the ­current PM and the current and previous home secretaries.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, UK governments fell over themselves to clasp wealthy Russian émigrés to their bosom too, most especially if they chucked a ­million or two into the Tory election ­coffers. You won’t come across too many fruit-picking oligarchs.

Then again. you won’t have to travel too far in parts of England where the denizens have fashioned some form of bastardised identity which excludes foreigners of all stripes, most especially brown-skinned ones. Maybe some of these fervent “patriots” haven’t clocked that the leader of the current Conservative administration isn’t a whitey.

Every time Tory or Labour politicians use rhetoric which can be picked up and misused by the hard of thinking, they ­exacerbate this unsavoury form of racism.

In truth, it’s the English who seem to have an identity problem as they wrap themselves ever more tightly in the Union flag. That emblem used to be ubiquitous at Scotland v England matches, was the subject of a famous reclamation project by Tony Blair, and is now an obligatory backdrop for his current successor.

Yet it is the flag of St George which is now more prominently flown at international soccer encounters which is both geographically and politically correct.

The hoo-hah over the booing of the English national anthem was born of the pretence that God Save The King belongs solely to the England team at a time when Scotland, Wales, and Ireland all have their own, not to mention the healthy state of republicanism.

There’s no shortage of Anglocentric ­ditties they could adopt in its stead, most notably Jerusalem, that paean of praise to “England’s green and pleasant land”.

The fact that more migrants choose to settle in the south east of England than here in Scotland is no more than further evidence that the overheated corner of the UK can still function as a magnet for those looking for employment, legal or otherwise. It has been a magnet too for so many young Scots facing a lack of career and housing opportunities on their own doorsteps.

It’s also said that London has the most accessible and flourishing employment black market, and I don’t doubt it. Yet that market could not flourish to anything like the same extent if we allowed people ­waiting for asylum-seeking verdicts to ­access legitimate jobs and, not at all incidentally, pay taxes on their legal wages.

THE current squabbling over who can sound toughest on immigration is all of a piece with which of the major UK parties can promise their electorate that they will be more draconian on welfare than the other.

In fact, rumour has it that the ­Chancellor is contemplating shredding the already meagre benefits budget in his upcoming Autumn statement in order to finance the tax cuts for which his more right-wing ­colleagues have been bellowing these many miserable months.

Were that to come to pass, it would be the classic illustration of Conservative policies, robbing the poor to help the rich. The tartan variation on which is, the Tory cry, that putting up any taxes on the ­comfortable would cause an exodus and damage the economy.

This shroud is waved regularly despite the lack of any evidence that the better off are taking the low road to Englandshire. Maybe they choose to stay here, just as many English folk choose to arrive here because of the myriad social benefits we enjoy which are unavailable down south.

The Labour Party are much given to urge Scots to have solidarity with their ­counterparts in England. Maybe they haven’t ­noticed the number of English folk who want ­solidarity with a more liberal ­Scottish ­regime than what is on offer from ­Westminster’s hostile environment.

It seems there is now a notion of ­having a referendum on England’s ­independence. A way of letting some folk free themselves from those troublesome Jocks. Won’t happen for the same reason it hasn’t ­happened here.

The government can’t risk a Yes ­majority in either country.