SCOTS have a more liberal attitude towards immigration than people in the rest of the UK, according to a major poll published today.

In the biggest survey of its kind, the Migration Observatory research body found Scots were significantly less concerned about the impact of immigration and were more likely to view it as good for the country. A majority of Scots - 60% - also felt that immigration should be the responsibility of Holyrood rather than Westminster.

The findings suggest First Minister Alex Salmond's plan to boost the economy of an independent Scotland by encouraging immigration could win public support.

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The report was welcomed by ­External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf, who said the UK Government's efforts to reduce immigration were harming Scotland's economic prospects. He said: "The Scottish Government greatly values the contribution migrants make to our economy, our culture and our society. With independence, Scotland would have the powers it needs to grow that contribution."

YouGov questioned 2235 people in Scotland and a further 2027 in England and Wales on behalf of the Oxford University-based research body.

They found 58% of Scots wanted immigration cut, compared with 75% of people in the rest of the UK.

However, when asked about the groups targeted by Mr Salmond, only 23% of Scots wanted to curb highly skilled workers moving to the country and only 22% wanted to cut the number of university students from overseas.

In another encouraging finding for the First Minister, 41% of Scots felt immigration was good for the country compared with 31% who felt it was harmful. By contrast, just 35% of people in England and Wales felt immigration was good for the country, against 49% who said it was bad.

Scots were also less likely to see immigration as a major issue facing the country, ranking it fourth on a list of priorities behind the referendum, the economy and welfare. South of the Border immigration was regarded as the second biggest issue after the economy.

Scots backed Holyrood control over immigration by a factor of two to one.

Dr Scott Blinder, director of the Migration Observatory and author of the report, said: "Scotland's attitudes toward migration are noticeably different to those in England and Wales, so this research is critical for both the referendum debate and for wider questions about migration policy in Scotland. "

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: "There is no doubt migrants coming to Scotland can be a valuable addition to the workforce, but the process of allowing people into the country has to be handled in a measured, sensible way.

"That's why we believe it's time for a new settlement which puts the concept of free movement within the EU on a sensible basis. This is in stark contrast to the SNP's relaxed approach to immigration, which would almost certainly lead to border controls."