MINISTERS have expressed grave concerns over the emergence of UK Government plans to use Scottish councils as its eyes and ears against illegal immigrant workers.

Licensing committees would be legally required to carry out full background checks to ensure any applicant for a taxi or private hire driver's licence is permitted to work in the UK under the Conservatives' Immigration Bill.

But the move has sparked a major constitutional row over the impact it would have on devolved legislation.

The Law Society of Scotland has also said it believes that to become law, the plans would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

Local authority leaders fear it will add another bureaucratic and financial burden on them and most councils will not have the expertise to forensically check the authenticity of travel and immigration documents.

Anyone for whom the UK is not their place of birth and wants to drive a cab, often the first choice of profession for immigrants, would have to prove they have all the relevant consents.

It is understood plans to extend the checks to liquor licensing are under consideration.

The Bill has been strongly criticised at the Scottish Parliament for its overlap into devolved legislation.

A Scottish Government spokesman said it had made strong representations to the UK Government as the Bill impacted upon devolved laws, adding that it had serious concerns.

He added: "This process must take into account the views of the Scottish Government and relevant Scottish stakeholders.”

"The proposals have been studied by the Law Society and there are certain issues upon which we seek clarification and we will be raising these with the appropriate civil servants."

The Scottish Government added that the Westminster plans gave it order making powers to legislate on immigration matters within its Bill without the requirement for a legislative consent motion from the Scottish Parliament and that "ministers continue to press for meaningful engagement on these issues".

The Law Society of Scotland’s director of law reform, Michael Clancy, said assessing the issue of legislative consent was not easy, but added: "In the circumstances the Society's sub-committee came to the view that the Sewell Convention did apply and the Scottish Parliament would need to give consent."

Glasgow City Council said there had been no consultation with licensing authorities over the late proposed amendments to the Bill.

Cosla, the local government umbrella body, said it was important the extra requirements for "taxi licensing remain light touch" as councils were facing significant cuts.