Scotland seeks independence, more skilled immigrants

March 31st, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 31 (IANS) The head of Scotland’s government says his province wants more skilled immigrants, opposing the British government’s moves to clamp down on it. First Minister Alex Salmond buttressed his long-standing arguments for Scottish independence by saying his government differed with London over immigration.

He said Prime Minister Gordon Brown has no “British solutions” to international problems and that calls for a referendum on Scottish independence were growing “irresistible”.

“What I’m saying is if there are global challenges, let’s face them globally with Scotland participating as an independent country,” he told BBC television Sunday.

“I don’t think there are any particular solutions to the various arguments that he has put forward and some of them do have a particular Scottish aspect.

“Take immigration, for example. We’re not full up in Scotland. We’ve got a key skills shortage. We have a different attitude towards the question, particularly of skills and immigration.

“So this is an example of where it suits Scotland to have more responsibility over immigration policy,” said Salmond, who belongs to the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP).

The SNP has long campaigned for independence for Scotland, which is one four provinces that make up Britain, along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Brown’s government has come under fire recently after introducing a Points Based System that makes it difficult for highly skilled migrants from outside the European Union region to live and work in Britain. Under current proposals immigrants must score at least 75 points to qualify to live and work in Britain, with the process favouring those who are young, qualified and earn at least 40,000 pounds ($80,000) a year.

The government says it will draw up periodic lists of which employment sectors need skilled immigrants and which do not.

But Salmond’s call for skilled workers reveals that Scotland does not share the British government’s views on a key political issue.

His comments come after the head of Britain’s apex race relations body said the immigration system should be weighted to encourage skilled foreigners to move to Scotland rather than settle in London or southeast Britain.

Sir Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said March 15 the move would fill gaps in Scotland’s workforce and ease pressure on public services and housing in other parts of Britain.

A Home Office Migration Advisory Committee is currently drawing up a list of sectors where skilled immigrants are needed. However, it has reportedly been asked to draw up a separate list for Scotland.

Phillip said foreigners who agree to settle in Scotland should be given more points.

“What I’m suggesting is that in totting up those points, you could bias the system so those who have jobs in Scotland get extra points. We should be creating an incentive for people to move to Scotland rather than tending to do what they do now, which is heading straight to London and the southeast,” Phillips said.

The idea replicates schemes in Australia and Canada, which are based on moving migrants to regions where there are fewer population pressures.

Phillips said weighting the system toward Scotland would benefit the Scottish economy, help reverse a population decline in the province and stop immigrants from heading toward London.

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