Immigration policy is currently the sole responsibility of Westminster, although the “shortage occupation list” allows Scottish businesses to offer particular jobs to non-EU nationals without first advertising them domestically.
The Home Office said it was not planning to introduce local immigration visa arrangements, but insisted its priority was to build an immigration system that worked for everyone in the UK.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report agreed that the UK’s current point-based system is “generally unresponsive to demographic, economic, and cultural differences between our constituent nations and regions”.
It added: “This has led to friction between the Scottish and UK governments, as the former’s aim of increasing immigration (in order to grow its labour force) has come into conflict with the Home Office’s commitment to cut net immigration.”
The report said Scottish councils had done a “significant amount of work” to attract more immigrants but that these efforts could be “undermined by a nationally-driven reduction in the number of immigrants arriving in the UK”.
It pointed to Canada as an example of a country which had introduced a regionalised immigration system.
The report added: “The APPG calls on the government to seriously consider devolving a degree of control over immigration policy powers to the constituent nations and regions of the UK so as to boost levels of integration.
“The government should appoint an independent commission to explore how a devolved or regionally-led immigration system might work.”
It suggested that the commission could examine questions such as:
- Whether the shortage occupation list which is already devolved to Scotland could be extended to other areas of the UK, including Wales, Northern Ireland and London
- Whether these powers could be strengthened to enable the nations and regions of the UK to develop immigrant criteria to reflect their specific demographic and cultural conditions
- Whether the UK government might copy the Canada-Quebec Accord, which sees immigration substantially devolved to the provincial government of Quebec
The report said: “Devolving substantial immigration policy powers to the UK’s nations and regions would almost certainly involve significant challenges, but might be achieved through the introduction of region (and potentially sector) specific visas.