Scottish employers see unrestricted migration for EU citizens as positive for their businesses, according to a new research paper published today.
The study - by Professor David Bell of the University of Stirling and Dr David McCollum and Scott Tindal of the University of St. Andrews – also revealed that employers are concerned that Scottish independence (or the UK changing its relationship with the EU) may interrupt the freedom of EU citizens to live and work in Scotland.
The analysis forms part of a series of briefing papers published by the ESRC Centre for Population Change, as part of the Future of the UK and Scotland programme.
The Bell, McCollum and Tindal study analysed an online survey of more than 700 Scottish employers, supplemented with 20 in-depth interviews.
It discovered that some employers viewed the current Points-Based System (PBS), which regulates non-EU migration, as restrictive and failing to meet their business needs, and many employers and industry representatives were actively lobbying the UK and Scottish governments on immigration matters.
The study also found that:
two-thirds of Scottish employers felt that EU status and migration was an issue of importance to them, and one-third of employers said that they would like to see issues around immigration and visas receive more attention in the constitutional change debate;
employers have differing views concerning immigration policies governing EU versus non-EU migration;
employers felt that Scotland’s needs from immigration policy were not different to other parts of the UK’s, but that the rest of the UK has different needs from London and South-East England;
many employers and industry representatives claimed that they were actively lobbying the Scottish and UK governments on immigration policy matters; and
regardless of the 2014 referendum outcome, there are a number of opportunities and challenges for Scotland in seeking to implement an immigration policy that better meets its needs.
Another paper, published by the ESRC today, considers how migration to and from Scotland might change following the referendum, and how future migration patterns might be predicted. The findings show that international emigration from Scotland is likely to increase in the near future, irrespective of the referendum outcome.
Meanwhile a third related paper on migration patterns suggests that an independent Scotland might attract a higher number of international migrants, and also – to a lesser extent – could generate a higher number of emigrants.
Professor Allan Findlay from the ESRC Centre for Population Change and the University of St Andrews, said: “We have uncovered some interesting findings through our research which will have important policy implications regardless of the outcome of the independence referendum. It is clear that the ‘London-effect’ has a bearing on the UK and English averages in relation to most migration statistics, so we think it could become important to separate out migration policies and tailor them to the different needs of regional economies, be that for Scotland, or for the regions of England.
“The Scottish government, in its White Paper on Scotland’s Future, has identified immigration as one of the key drivers of population and economic growth, and so our findings promote re-examining migration policies, with a view to following a less restrictive approach to immigration than is current policy in the UK.”
The ESRC Centre for Population Change (CPC) was established in January 2009. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and is the UK’s first research centre on population change. Based jointly at the University of Southampton and the National Records of Scotland, the ESRC Centre for Population Change brings together expertise from the universities of Southampton, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Stirling as well as the National Records of Scotland and The Office for National Statistics. The Centre is directed by Professor Jane Falkingham, with co-investigators Professor Maria Evandrou and Professor Elspeth Graham.