WHITEHALL’S “intransigence and incompetence” over Brexit are the only barrier preventing Scotland having the immigration policy it needs, the SNP has insisted, as UK minister Robin Walker sought to give reassurance that Scottish interests would be heard “loud and clear” in the EU exit process.

But Michael Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister, said contradictory statements by Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, and her ministers in the wake of a new review on EU migration “only added to the uncertainty that they have created”.

He said given the review by the Migration Advisory Committee[MAC] was not due to conclude until September 2018, then “people are quite entitled to question its purpose,” particularly as there was overwhelming evidence about the contribution EU migrants made to society.

“Day after day, we have senior Tory Cabinet members making statements about Brexit, which completely contradict each other and it is little wonder that, as each day goes by, more and more evidence emerges of the negative effects that Brexit is already having on our economy and our society.”

Mr Russell added: “The only message that business wants to hear is that the Tory Government has listened to their concerns and will soften their extreme Brexit and put jobs and living standards ahead of Tory dogma.”

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said she was “flabbergasted” at the tardiness of the Government in getting the MAC to report back by autumn next year.

"Delaying basic research like this, yet still promising it's all going to be sorted out by March 2019, is completely irresponsible,” declared the former Shadow Home Secretary.

Earlier, Brandon Lewis, the Immigration minister, caused controversy when he made clear the free movement of labour – one of the core principles of the European single market - would end the moment Britain left the European Union in March 2019.

Asked why free trade and single market access would not also end then, he replied: "There's a period of negotiation we're going through with the European Union at the moment but we're very clear that free movement ends…when we leave."

But when later pressed on the issue during a visit to a Border Force patrol ship in Troon Harbour, Ms Rudd explained how a totally new immigration system would have to be created and involve a “grace period” to allow EU migrants to register to live and work in the UK.

"The MAC have been asked to give us the real evidence about the value of EU migration to the UK because we know it has been hugely valuable and we want to make sure that the changes we put in place are evidence-based," she explained.

Ms Rudd insisted Scotland’s needs would be part of the review as the UK Government wanted to “look across the whole country, different regions, of course to Scotland, and also to different industries, so we make sure when we set our policy it continues to support employment, growth and prosperity".

But Labour’s Pat McFadden, speaking on behalf of Open Britain, the campaign that seeks close ties with the EU, branded the Conservative Government’s strategy “a shambles,” claiming Mr Lewis had thrown a “grenade into attempts to reassure the country that there will be no Brexit cliff edge”.

The Wolverhampton MP claimed ending freedom of movement abruptly from March 2019 would “rule out freedom of movement during any transition period and, in all likelihood, rule out continued single market membership during a transition too”.

Joan McAlpine, the SNP MSP, accused Ms Rudd of being “all over the place” on immigration while her Holyrood colleague, Christina McKelvie said: "The SNP has long made the case for Scotland to have its own immigration policy to fit our own needs; the overwhelming evidence is that this is necessary, all the more so given the Tories’ utter confusion.”

The Nationalist MSP added: "The only barrier to Scotland having greater say over immigration is intransigence and incompetence from the Home Office and the Prime Minister."

Last week, the Lords EU committee urged Theresa May’s Government to look at “differentiated arrangements” for Scotland, falling short of full control on immigration.

Thus far, the UK Government has ruled out devolving power over migration for fear it would cause difficulties for British businesses and, politically, could boost the campaign for independence by creating a separate system.

Mr Walker, speaking in Edinburgh, stressed how the MAC review was about designing an immigration system that worked for the whole of the UK economy.

"Scottish interests will be heard loud and clear in that process but we need to see first of all across the board what the evidence is from the MAC commission about how this works in different parts of the UK," he explained.