Immigration, another topic that people generally have a strong views on. Usually those against it are the most vocal in their disapproval of it. Immigration is branded as a curse hanging around the British Isles like a millstone. UKIP, BNP and Britain First use it as a campaign point, the Westminster Government had vans with the slogan "Go Home" emblazoned on the sides (granted, it was targeted at illegal immigrants, but it set a tone), The Daily Mail has a field day inciting allsorts of hatred for immigrants, using manipulative language and manipulated figures to distort the truth and fuel anger and resentment throughout the nation. Then we have the SNP declaring that we need immigration in Scotland, and opening its arms to welcome those who wish to live and work here, to the tune of around 500,000 immigrants. A stark contrast to the rUK.
So what is the current problem with immigration and why is it viewed with such animosity?
First of all, under the previous UK (Labour) government, the borders to immigration appear to have been somewhat lax. Our island's population swelled with over 1 million immigrants from the newly expanded EU alone, and from Poland in particular, in the past decade. This has caused the utmost outrage, especially from the Tabloids, particularly The Daily Mail readership, as regular reporting of how the Polish were stealing all the UK jobs, but doing them for less money, and sending that money back to Poland, rather than reinvesting it in the UK economy. Now, while I won't contradict this in its entirety, I don't believe it to be true for every one who entered the country. As someone who used to recruit staff on a regular basis between 2000-2013, I could not have cared less the origins of my applicants, as long as they were able to legally work and do the job to the level desired (so I didn't get fined or lose my job, hiring someone illegally - unlike Mark Harper, Tory minister, former Minister of State for Immigration, who employed his Columbian cleaner, who was here illegally, where he was not then subjected to the policy conditions he implemented.). Working in Edinburgh, I did have many applicants from all over Europe and Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australasia too, but what I found, was that the people from abroad were far less snooty and were willing to take jobs others would turn their noses up at (such as cleaners). The vacancies still had to be filled, and it would be filled by someone who would do the job well, and actually accept the position! On the flip side, and far less reported (less likely to sell papers) is the number of UK citizens who have emigrated to other countries. In the past decade, we have lost 2million people to the likes of Australia, NZ, Canada, America and other parts of the EU, going to find their own happiness, with a better quality life for their families, better jobs, better financial security, etc etc, each having their own priorities and reasons for leaving. Instead of attacking those who seek to move here and improve their lives, should we be looking at why our own people are leaving?
Secondly, there would appear to be a bit of a blurred line in minds of the general public between legal immigration, illegal immigration and asylum seekers, so that the 3 have all become the same thing, when in fact they are each quite different. There is the notion, heavy propagated by the media, that immigrants come here, get a council house without having to wait, get all the benefits without having to have paid any national insurance or income tax, don't have to work, don't have to speak the language and don't have to integrate with the local community. There have been television programmes made regarding this. Stories of this nature are never out of the papers. Naturally, the everyday hardworking tax paying 'native' is going to feel mightily pissed off, when they are trying making ends meet and still waiting on a council house after being on the list for the past 15years, whilst at the same time, getting any benefits cut or reduced. But how much of this is true, and how much makes a grabbing headline and makes papers fly off the shelf, cha-ching in Rupert Murdoch's or the Daily Mail & General Trust's bank accounts? Again, I won't contradict the fact that this has happened in certain circumstance, and some families have done very well out of our tax pounds, but they are the minority not the majority. If we are going to get so angry and het up about getting houses and benefits, just think about the amount of money our MPs screwed us for with their now exposed expenses racket, and 2nd homes in London, 'to be near Westminster' which end up being sub-let to earn another tidy wee sum. The perceived drain on our resources caused by immigrants, can be balanced against the number of emmigrants - there isn't that much of a difference between the in/out numbers, not significant enough amount to cause our infrastructure and services to collapse. Perhaps that has more to do with government cuts..?
What is the reality of immigration:
1. Legal immigration - is the right of a person to live and work in a country other than the one of their birth. Subject to visa's, permits and conditions imposed from the host country's government.
2. Illegal immigration - is where someone is living in another country without the appropriate paperwork, therefore without a legal right to be there.
3. Asylum Seeker - someone who has fled their home country, usually in times of war/persecution/natural disaster. A political refugee who seeks safety/security/protection in another country.
What are the plans for immigration in an iScotland?
From the Scottish Government's White Paper (immigration section running from pg267-271) :
Scotland has a different need for immigration than other parts of the UK. Healthy population growth is important for Scotland's economy. One of the main contributors to growth is migrants who choose to make Scotland their home. In the future our enhance economic strategy will also do more to encourage young people to build their lives and careers in Scotland.
This government will take forward a points based approach [similar to Australia] targeted at particular Scottish requirements.
Plan to reduce financial maintenance thresholds and minimum salary at entry levels, to better align them with Scottish average wages and cost of living.
Plans to re-introduce the post-study work visa (which WM stopped in April 2012, thus preventing new qualified graduates from working or setting up businesses in the UK), which will encourage overseas students and generate income for universities and invest/develop their skills within our economy.
Opportunity for new model of asylum services separate from immigration. Scottish Asylum Agency to oversee asylum applications, and will continue Scotland's present approach of promoting integration of refugees and asylum seekers from the day they arrive, not just from when leave to remain has been granted (as is the case in the rest of UK). iScotland will close Dungavel (detention centre), end dawn raids and practice of inhumane treatment of those who have exercised their legitimate right to seek asylum. If there is a need for forcible removals, these will be undertaken with respect for human rights.
From Yes Scotland :
At the outset, the immigration system would be similar to what exists now, and it would then of course depend on who was elected as the Scottish Government as to what changes would be introduced. There will not be any border controls between Scotland and the rest of the UK or Ireland – these countries (and also the Isle of Man and Channel Islands) already operate a common travel area which Scotland will remain part of.
However, we can expect future Scottish Governments to develop an immigration system that best suits Scotland's particular circumstances and needs.
Yes Scotland believes that UK immigration policy is not appropriate for Scotland. For example, our Universities are critical of restrictions on student visas which are harming their ability to recruit and retain the brightest students and academics from around the world.
And because of high financial maintenance thresholds, too many families are seeing husbands and wives and mothers and fathers refused entry into this country.
Attracting younger workers is also part of the current Scottish Government’s policy for tackling demographic change and an ageing population.
Similarly, the Scottish Parliament has regularly been critical of UK policies on asylum such as detention and ‘dawn raids’ but without powers over immigration and asylum, cannot put an alternative system in place.
From the Scottish Green Part's proposal, Green YES :
The authoritarian and dysfunctional approach from the UK Borders Agency fails to meet Scottish needs. Scottish universities needs to attract overseas students; many Scottish employers want to welcome talented people to contribute to our society and economy.
The 3 sources above have a similar outlook and proposals for our new immigration policy. Essentially we need to encourage people to come to live and work, bringing their skills (or developing their skills learned here) to invest in and contributing to the increased quality of life for everyone. With our own aging population, we need a vibrant and engaged workforce, each paying their taxes. A points based system to immigrate here would make it more difficult for people to just turn up, get a job and send all wages back to family at home. They would have to prove their ability to financially support themselves, have work lined up, a place to live, no right to welfare benefits within a set time frame (ie 6months and have been paying appropriate contributions). Just as we would have to, should we decided to emigrate out of the UK. The beauty of the constitution is the opportunity for all parties involved pulling together during the consultation to set out a robust, fair, humane and equal system, that is in the best interest for Scotland and her people.
From a personal point of view, thinking about friends, work colleagues and relations, between Hubby and I, we know and have people from the following countries in our lives, living and working and contributing to the UK both financially and socially : USA, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Russia, Ireland, France, Italy and Pakistan. It doesn't ever cross my mind that my friends/colleagues are immigrants. There is no stigma - the stigma comes from the media and from the ignorant.
We have a chance to start anew with the hindsight of how wrong it went in UK and how wrong it still remains/continues.
We need to start looking at immigration as a positive asset to the country, providing a multi cultural, inclusive, contributory society, rather than the negative drain on our already over stretched resources.