My colleagues and I opposed the Tory government’s Immigration Bill in the House of Commons last night as it risks ripping away mutual free movement rights and damaging Scotland’s economic and social interests, posing a very real danger to people’s livelihoods.
My colleagues and I will oppose the bill every step of the way not least because it grants Tory ministers a “blank cheque” and sweeping powers to change the immigration system post-Brexit with little parliamentary scrutiny.
Whilst I welcome the UK government’s overdue climb-down to scrap the settled status fee for EU nationals, serious questions still remain over rights to appeal dubious Home Office decisions, and why there is a deadline to apply. An arbitrary cut-off points creates a very real risk of another Windrush-type situation for the thousands who will inevitably miss it. More needs to be done to avoid extending the Tories' 'hostile environment'.
I have repeatedly called on the UK government to devolve immigration powers to the Scottish Parliament so that the Scottish Government is in a position to design a system that addresses Scotland's economic and demographic needs.
The UK government’s very own White Paper suggests that there would be an 85% reduction in the number of EEA workers to Scotland if Freedom of Movement came to an end. Scottish Government analysis found the average EU citizen in Scotland adds £10,400 to government revenue and £34,400 to GDP each year.
The bill has been met with disdain and concern from business groups and employers, who warn that it would be a ‘sucker punch’ to firms across the country. If unchallenged and unopposed, the Immigration Bill will be catastrophic for communities and businesses across the whole of Scotland - particularly for key sectors such as tourism, hospitality and social care.
The Prime Minister has overridden her own Cabinet in an attempt to force through measures to end free movement and extend draconian anti-family immigration rules to EU citizens.
Time and time again, the UK government has failed to address Scotland’s economic, demographic and social needs. It is high time that immigration powers were devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that the Scottish Government is able to develop a tailored migration system that works for Scotland.