DOWNING Street has made clear that there will be one single immigration policy for the whole of the UK after it was suggested David Davis had hinted Scotland could have a separate system.
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Stephen Gethins, the SNP's Europe spokesman, said that if the Government was determined not to accept a Lords amendment forcing it unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, then it should let Holyrood decide for Scotland.
"In terms of powers for the Scottish Parliament, we were promised, a week before the vote, that Scotland would decide its own immigration policy in the event of Brexit,” explained the Fife MP.
"Now next week we have a crucial vote on EU nationals, we have another opportunity. If this Government will not use its powers to give EU nationals the certainty they require, will they give those powers to the Scottish Parliament?"
Mr Davis replied: "The simple truth is that the Scottish Government has raised a very important issue on the Joint Ministerial Committee about the question of the immigration needs of Scotland.
"And I have reflected those questions to the Home Secretary and I would expect that when we come to a UK immigration policy, we will reflect the needs of every part of the United Kingdom."
When Theresa May’s spokesman was asked about the suggestion the Brexit Secretary had flagged up the possibility of a distinct immigration policy for Scotland, he said Mr Davis’s comments had been “slightly misinterpreted”.
“It had been put to him by the SNP and he had said he had fed that back to the Home Secretary as part of, as we have stressed repeatedly, the ongoing exercise of engagement with the devolved administrations via the JMC platforms and elsewhere.
“What he then went on to say was when we come to formulate an immigration policy upon exiting the EU, that will be an immigration policy that reflects the needs of every part of the UK.”
Asked if there will, therefore, not be a separate immigration policy for Scotland and other parts of the UK, he replied: “No; as I said it will be an immigration policy that reflects every part of the UK.”
He added it was “the position” of the Government that there would be no separate immigration policy for Scotland but a single one for the whole of the UK.
Later, during a debate on Scotland’s demography and devolution, the SNP’s Pete Wishart again made the plea for Whitehall to “give us a chance, give us a break; consider devolving some immigration powers to Scotland”.
The Perth MP, who chairs the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, was commenting as MPs debated the committee’s report on Scotland’s demographic challenge.
Mr Wishart explained while there was resistance in England to more immigration, the opposite was true in Scotland, where because of slower growth in population, particularly among working age people, that the nation needed an increase in migrant workers.
The SNP’s Shadow Commons Leader claimed a once-size-fits-all UK immigration policy was working “against Scotland’s national interests” as was the Conservative Government’s “concern to the point of obsession” to get the net migration figures down.
However, Robert Goodwill, the Immigration Minister, made clear he saw “Scotland’s sustainability as part of the UK”.
Stressing how Whitehall was working closely with Edinburgh on Brexit, he told MPs: “We are considering the options for our future immigration system very carefully. As part of that it’s important we understand the impacts of different options on different sectors of the economy and labour market around the UK.”
Mr Goodwill added: “I want Scotland to continue to be a prosperous nation but I see Scotland’s sustainability as part of the UK.”