New research highlights significant international precedent for a bespoke immigration policy for Scotland


New research for Holyrood’s European Committee highlights significant international precedent for Scotland having its own distinct immigration policy, in order to attract EU migrants and help meet its demographic and labour needs after Brexit.

The research was commissioned by the committee after it published a report in February calling for a bespoke immigration solution for Scotland.

The research presents international case studies, including Spain, Canada and Australia, which examine a range of potential options for responding to Scotland’s immigration needs. It demonstrates that all of the countries examined have created straightforward and innovative solutions for immigration policy at a sub-state level.

The report, prepared for the committee by Dr Eve Hepburn, lists twenty ways in which Scotland could adopt bespoke immigration policies, including:

  • Developing Scottish Migrant Integration and Reception policies.
  • Undertaking international outreach activities and advertising Scotland as a destination for EU migrants.
  • Creating a new postgraduate work visa for Scotland.
  • The creation of temporary work permits for seasonal migrants in Scotland.
  • Devolving administrative aspects of immigration (including the creation of a Scottish Work Permit processing office).

The report examines sub-state case studies, including the State of South Australia, Catalonia and the Basque Country in Spain, the Provinces of Quebec and Prince Edward Island in Canada, the Åland Islands in Finland and the Swiss Canton of Vaud.

The Convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, Joan McAlpine MSP, said:

“With our committee having previously recognised the need for a bespoke immigration system for Scotland, I welcome this new academic study which details international precedent of how this is already happening, in countries such as Australia, Canada, Spain and Switzerland.

“The prospect of a ‘hard Brexit’ is a real concern for key sectors of the Scottish economy, such as agriculture and hospitality that are heavily reliant on EU migrant labour.

“This report shows that there are sensible and straightforward ways for us to secure a bespoke system of immigration that addresses the specific needs of Scotland, even while the UK Government takes a different approach. Dr Hepburn's detailed research demonstrates there are successful examples all over the world of how different immigration policies can exist within a single state."

Lewis Macdonald MSP, Deputy Convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, said:

“It is widely acknowledged that Scotland has an ageing population and we need a strong migrant workforce to support key sectors of our economy. Joint working between the UK and Scottish Governments are a key theme in this report. I would encourage the Scottish and UK Governments to work together in examining these proposals.”


The report features analysis that shows Scotland’s population is growing at a slower rate than the rest of the UK, due to an ageing population, lower levels of immigration and low levels of fertility.

Drawing from the case study analysis, the report identified a range of differentiated immigration policy options that could be applicable to Scotland/the UK. These options are listed in the study.

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