IT’S been a tumultuous few days in Scottish politics. I’d be remiss if I did not take the first opportunity to wish Humza Yousaf well, a decent man who put the needs of the nation before himself and he’ll not be lost to us.

For my part, I have already declared my support for John Swinney if he decides to stand.

I think he has the experience, decency and temperament to unite us and focus us on the challenges we face. I daresay I’ll write more on that in due course.

Meantime, down at Westminster, the SNP MPs continue to work hard standing up for the interests of the people of Scotland. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Questions, as well as Scotland Questions, are on the agenda this week so I’ve been pressing on the UK’s disastrous approach to asylum and immigration.


As the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson for Europe and EU accession, I welcomed the fact that there are some grown-ups in the room when it came to the Working Arrangement on border co-operation agreed between the UK and the European Union in February, but if it is to have any serious effect it will need to be well-resourced and properly funded.

The National: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 30, 2020: European Union flags wave in front of the Berlaymont Building, the European Commission's headquarters at night on January 30, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. The European Commission, is a supranational body of the

Equally, without the provision of safe and legal routes, the boats the Conservatives are so desperate to stop will keep coming. Surely, when it comes to tackling the criminal gangs that take advantage of vulnerable people, it would make sense to provide alternative, legal, and safe routes by co-operating with international partners and our friends in the EU?

After all, as Stephen Bush from the Financial Times pointed out recently, if you are an individual coming from an autocratic regime such as Eritrea, have crossed war-torn countries as well as the Sahara desert, and boarded a rickety boat crossing the Mediterranean, the idea of being deported back to Rwanda if you make it to the UK is hardly much of a threat.

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States (and I include a future independent Scotland in this) have the right to control their own borders, but they also have duties under international law when it comes to asylum seekers and refugees. By all means, let’s all have a conversation on how to better enshrine these rights – but in the meantime we need to bear in mind that these are desperate human beings, often fleeing awful situations.

As well as providing safe and legal routes, another aspect of the approach of the Westminster parties to migration is the failure to acknowledge the “push factors” that drive people to embark on dangerous and life-threatening journeys. In many of these cases, there will be a risk to life whether because of their ethnicity, profession, sexuality or a dozen different other characteristics.

The National: Rwanda Bill passes parliament earlier in the week. Image: Toby Melville/PA

On the other hand, there might also be the economic factors of a lack of reliable work, low wages, few employment rights – ironically, a similar situation to many Scots who emigrated from our country to other parts of the world during the 19th and 20th centuries.

International development is a good in and of itself, but where it has an additional impact on migration is that it addresses at heart many of the root causes which drive people to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

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Whether it is cash transfers or educational outreach programmes, constructive engagement with local communities can do a lot of good in addressing the socio-economic issues facing them – as well as address the challenge of depopulation in their communities.

The other facet of Westminster’s immigration approach is one that I’ll be raising today when it comes to: youth mobility. Here we are not talking so much about illegal migration but instead the self-defeating restrictions that Brexit has put on the futures of our young people.

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Just the other week, the European Commission proposed a replacement youth mobility exchange scheme for 18- to 30-year-olds between the UK and the EU. It wouldn’t be a full return to freedom of movement, but it would give options for Europeans and those across these islands to live, work and study in their reciprocal each others’ countries. As well as opening up horizons, it would go a long way towards repairing some of the damage that Brexit has done to the younger generation.

That proposal was rejected out of hand not only by the Tory government but also the Labour opposition, so feart are they of being seen as weak on any discussion of migration. Yet as we have seen around the world as well as in other parts of the UK, giving into the rhetoric of the far-right only emboldens them. After all, if harsh immigration rules are what you want, why go for the imitation?

It is why I am proud in the SNP that we would want to take a different approach. Working alongside our partners across the EU, we would ensure that we have an immigration approach tailored to our unique needs in Scotland.

We can be a key voice in ensuring that we starve the criminal gangs of their income through the establishment of safe and legal routes. Being back in the EU will also mean more opportunities not only for our young people but for all segments of our society everyone to live, work and study across our shared continent.

The Tories and Labour can try and outdo themselves on being crueller. We in the SNP will focus instead on doing what’s right for the people of Scotland and in line with our duties to the rest of humanity.