AN independent Scotland would “comprehensively reject” Westminster’s hostile approach to immigration and welcome more migrants in order to boost the economy, ministers have said.

The Scottish Government said it wanted to create a “more humane and dignified asylum system” that addressed “imbalances caused by historical inequalities and power dynamics”.

SNP ministers said the approach would be “rooted in equity for the Global South”, with “robust protection of migrants’ rights” and a new Commissioner to “speak up for migrants”.

Unlike at present, people seeking asylum would have the right to access public funds, including “mainstream social security benefits”.

They would also have the right to work - and pay tax - to help support themselves.

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Despite the proposed divergence with the rest of UK, independence minister Jamie Hepburn said there would not be person-by-person border checks between Scotland and England.

He said: "That’s not our vision for an independent Scotland at all.

“We are not looking to create a system whereby there are border checks at the border with the rest of the UK.”

Mr Hepburn said an independent Scotland would remain part of the Common Travel Area which allows residents to travel freely between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The proposals are set out in the sixth paper in the Government’s controversial independence prospectus series, Building a New Scotland, which was published this morning. 

It does not contain any figures on projected migrant numbers after independence.

The proposals include new visa routes to make it easier for people to “live, work, study and invest in Scotland” as part of efforts to increase the working-age population.

Without inward migration, Scotland’s population is projected to decline, with the number of working age people falling while the number of elderly people they need to support rises.

The Scottish Government said its plans could also help address depopulation in rural and island areas and provide skilled workers in tourism and hospitality.

The immigration system would be simplified, with lower fees and new public agencies to manage new migration and citizenship systems would operate.

MInisters also said the free movement of people between Scotland and the EU would be restored if Scotland rejoined the bloc after independence.

Unionist parties complain the papers are a waste of public money given there seems little prospect of a referendum in the coming years.

The Herald:

However, launching the paper in Dundee alongside immigration minister Emma Roddick and independence minister Jamie Hepburn, SNP Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Our future success as a country is dependent above all else on the people who live here, and we value all those who have chosen to settle in Scotland for their invaluable contribution to our society and economy. 

“This paper published today sets out how, with independence, we could help ensure that success with a migration system specifically tailored to Scotland’s needs, to make it easier for more people to settle and integrate here. 

“Scotland’s population is set to fall, unlike other UK nations, under current constitutional arrangements. This means fewer people working, paying taxes and contributing to public services like the NHS. Yet Scotland is subject to the UK Government’s hostile approach to immigration which is damaging our economy.

“Control of our own migration policy would enable us to replace that approach with a system that has dignity, fairness and respect at its core, recognising above all that this is about individuals and their families.

“It is these values that will determine an independent Scotland’s approach to migration and asylum policy – to benefit our country and the people who would call it home.”

The paper said Scotland would take a fundamentally different approach to the rest of the UK on immigration and asylum, with more routes in for people fleeing climate change.

It said: “Unlike current UK policy, people seeking asylum would have the right to work, have access to employability support and to public assistance through, for example our social security system, reducing the likelihood of destitution. 

“Those granted refugee status would be granted settlement status in Scotland. 

“This would support longer-term integration and reduce the need for refugees to have to go through additional administrative processes to stay in Scotland on a permanent basis.

“Finally, safe and legal routes would be available for displaced people and refugees, in part as recognition of the growing issue of climate refugees. 

“This government would commit to engaging with partner countries and communities at risk of displacement from climate change to explore whether a humanitarian visa would play a part in our wider approach to climate justice.”

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It said a Scottish system would also “pay particular attention” to policy for the Global South - Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

“Approaches to immigration in the Global North can often, through combinations of post-colonial legacies, unconscious and conscious bias, and systemic or institutional racism, lead to discriminatory outcomes for people from minority ethnic backgrounds. 

“This is true in the UK and was highlighted acutely in the scandal of the treatment of people of the Windrush generation.

“This government would seek to create systems that foster fairness and justice between the North and the South by addressing imbalances caused by historical inequalities and power dynamics.”

As well as avoiding migration policies which contributed to the “brain drain” in the Global South, the paper said Scotland would “introduce a Migrants’ Commissioner, to be responsible for speaking up for migrants and those affected by the system” and “put in place empowered external scrutiny of migration policy, in an equivalent and enhanced role to that of the UK Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.”

Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said: “This latest half-baked propaganda paper is a sop to diehard nationalists – and a demonstration of how out of touch the SNP are with ordinary Scots who want them to focus on their real priorities, like the cost-of-living crisis and unacceptable NHS waiting times.

“The SNP need to stop squandering time and taxpayers’ money on pushing their own independence obsession and instead focus on the issues that matter to the public.”

Minister Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said: “With the powers of a normal independent country, Scotland can build a positive, progressive and outward looking migration system that embraces our diversity and celebrates people rather than demonising them.

"This paper is a big step forward in laying out a vision of an independent Scotland that would offer fantastic opportunities while extending a helping and welcoming hand to people in need and opening ourselves to the world around us.

“In Scotland we face a falling and ageing population. There are huge and clear social and economic benefits that come from immigration, not least for the many rural communities across Scotland who desperately need to boost their working age populations.

“One of the most shameful legacies of this Tory government will be the harsh, hostile and racist anti-migrant policies they have implemented and the disastrous Brexit that has stretched our public services and curbed all of our rights to live, travel and study across Europe. Independence would allow us to do much better.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie kept it short. 

"The SNP should stop wasting everyone's time," he said.