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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Scotland Could Take Control of its Immigration Strategy

  • Scotland should be able to set its own labour immigration rules, finds independent think-tank IPPR
  • People in Scotland, alongside those in London, have a more relaxed attitude to immigration than the other nations and regions of the UK
  • Scotland has specific needs in terms of immigration particularly in relation to an ageing population and slower economic growth in recent years
  • Leading independent think-tank IPPR has published a new report which outlines how immigration could be devolved to Scotland and other parts of the UK

The paper entitled ‘An immigration strategy for the UK: six proposals to manage migration for economic success’, finds that the current UK-wide immigration strategy “lacks a strategic mission”. It finds that a new devolved system could lead to economic growth in the UK nations and regions, addressing geographical economic imbalances across the UK, boosting innovation, improving wages and productivity, and tackling the trade deficit.

Scotland has some of the lowest levels of opposition to immigration in the UK. It is also facing an ageing population, and in recent years has seen lower economic growth than the UK as a whole. A centralised, UK wide strategy does little to address these issues. However, a devolved immigration system with policy made in Scotland, to benefit Scotland, could help to stimulate the Scottish economy attracting skilled workers from outside of the UK.

The report calls on the UK Government to undertake fundamental reform of the UK immigration system following Brexit, to devolve immigration, ensure the immigration system has a clear vision and is flexible to local need.

Director of IPPR Scotland, Russell Gunson commented:

“Scotland has specific challenges that the current UK-wide immigration system is failing to address. With an ageing population and the need to boost our economy through innovation and productivity improvements, a devolved immigration system across the UK is an idea whose time has come.

“Scotland has some of the lowest levels of opposition to immigration in the UK. Devolving immigration could allow areas in the UK to be much more responsive to their local economic needs and public opinion, improving integration, trust and ensuring consent for immigration.

“As the Brexit negotiations continue the UK Government should consider fundamental reform of our immigration system, devolving immigration to Scotland and other parts of the UK.”



Rosie Corrigan, 0161 694 9685/07585772633,

Russell Gunson, 07766 904 332,


IPPR Scotland is IPPR’s dedicated think-tank for Scotland. We are cross-party, progressive, and neutral on the question of Scotland’s independence. IPPR Scotland is dedicated to supporting and improving public policy in Scotland, working tirelessly to achieve a progressive Scotland. For more information, visit:

IPPR’s Striking the Right Deal report, published in June, showed that outside of London and the south east of England, Scotland had some of the lowest levels of opposition to immigration in the UK – see Table 4.1, p40 

The report has been produced by the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice. This is a landmark initiative to rethink economic policy for post-Brexit Britain. The Commission brings together leading figures from across society to examine the challenges facing the UK economy and make practical recommendations for reform. Its Interim Report, Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy, was published in September 2017.