Humza Yousaf criticises UK immigration policies

Humza Yousaf
Humza Yousaf said coalition policies were damaging the Scottish economy

The Scottish minister with responsibility for immigration has attacked the UK government's approach to the issue.

External Affairs minister Humza Yousaf said coalition policies were damaging the Scottish economy.

He said Scottish society was united in opposition to the "restrictive" approach to immigration being pursued at Westminster.

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said tight regulation was important.

But he added that Scottish businesses were looking for skilled workers.

Last week, the UK government put immigration at the heart of proposed new laws in the Queen's Speech.

Its proposed immigration bill would force short-term migrants to pay for NHS care, compel landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and ensure that illegal immigrants could not get driving licences.

The Scottish government says independence is the only way to get an immigration policy suited to Scotland's needs.

Mr Yousaf said: "There's no doubt that the UK government's restrictive immigration policies are damaging Scotland's economy, but also the general message that Scotland is open for those who are wanting to come overseas to make a skilled contribution to Scotland.

"Immigration is one of the only policy issues that I can think of that unites Scottish business, the trade unions, politicians, the universities - because they're all feeling the impact of restrictive immigration policies."

Patrick Harvie, the co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, said that attitudes to immigration differed in Scotland, as well as economic needs north and south of the border.

He said: "I've canvassed in Scotland and I've canvassed with my colleagues in the Green Party in England, and it's very clear to me that there is a degree of hostility which exists in some parts of England towards immigration and immigrants which doesn't exist here, or not nearly to the same degree.

"Even when the Scottish government and the UK government were dominated by the same political party - Labour - when Jack McConnell, as first minister, wanted some degree of flexibility for Scotland so that we could meet our own needs within the immigration system, he didn't get it.

"It's very unlikely that I could see any situation where a Scottish government - whether it's the same parties or different parties running the show north and south of the border - is able to exercise any degree of control to meet Scotland's needs."

Mr Johnstone, Tory MSP for North East Scotland, told BBC Sunday Politics that tight regulation was needed.

"We have not had the experience of people coming in in large numbers simply to take advantage of the benefits system," he said.

"And if we did see that in Scotland I think public opinion would change radically.

"And that's what we have to defend against.

"So tight regulation of immigration is important, but we must make sure we're able to bring in the people we need to satisfy the demands of business."

More on this story