Two thirds think Holyrood ‘should control migration’
Twice as many Scots think Holyrood should control immigration than Westminster despite indications that the Scottish Government would increase immigration against the wishes of majority public opinion, a poll suggests.
Scotland has “a complex if not quite contradictory relationship between immigration attitudes and constitutional issues”, according to Oxford University’s Migration Observatory.
Some 60% of Scots think Holyrood should control immigration compared with less than a third who think decisions should stay with Westminster, a YouGov poll of 2,000 adults commissioned by Oxford found.
A majority of the Scottish public would favour reductions to immigration, the poll suggests.
The study supports recent surveys which suggest that the economy is the most prominent issue for referendum voters, most recently a BBC/TNS poll which ranked economy first and immigration sixth in Scotland’s priorities.
Scottish Government economic advisers say immigration and economic stability are linked, with hopes that a rise in immigrant workers will offset the economic challenges of an ageing population.
Some 58% of Scottish respondents in the Oxford poll supported reductions to immigration, while only 10% favoured an increase, although Scotland remains more favourable towards immigration than the rest of the UK where 75% support reduced immigration.
Different formulations of the immigration question produced different results, with 41% saying immigration is “good for Scotland” against 31% who said it is “bad for Scotland”.
Removing the word “immigration” from the question also yielded different results, with 49% saying it is “generally good for Scotland that people come to live here from outside the UK” against 32% who said it is “bad for the country”.
Migration Observatory director Dr Scott Blinder said: “Scotland’s attitudes toward migration are noticeably different to those in England and Wales, so this research is critical for both the referendum debate and for wider questions about migration policy in Scotland.
“In particular there is significantly less support in Scotland for reduced immigration than in England and Wales.
“It is important not to exaggerate this, though. A majority of Scottish people still want to see immigration levels reduced.
“It is interesting to note that people who intend to vote yes in the referendum are much less likely to support reduced immigration than those who intend to vote no.
“There is also clearly strong support for Scotland controlling its own immigration policy, rather than Westminster, and the immigration issue is of less concern in Scotland than in England and Wales.”
The report states: “When offered a choice, 60% said that the Scottish Government should make the most important decisions about immigration policy, and 58% said the same regarding asylum and refugees.
“The UK Government was the choice for less than a third, while less than 5% chose either local councils or the EU.”
It added: “There is a complex if not quite contradictory relationship between immigration attitudes and constitutional issues.
“A majority in Scotland (58%) support reduced immigration to Scotland, but more people in Scotland think immigration is good for Scotland (41%) than say it is bad for Scotland (31%).
“Compared with the rest of Britain, there is less opposition to immigration in Scotland, as in England and Wales 75% support reduced immigration, and it ranks lower on the public’s list of priorities at fourth in Scotland, compared to second in England and Wales.”
External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf said: “This confirms that Scots have a different attitude to migration. Despite the negative rhetoric from Westminster on the issue, we are less concerned about immigration and more likely to see it as a positive thing.
“It also shows that the people of Scotland agree our immigration policy should be controlled by Holyrood, not Westminster.
“The UK Government’s focus on arbitrarily reducing net migration is wrong for Scotland and is harming our economic prospects.
“Independence would deliver the control Scots want to see. It would give Scotland the ability to tailor a new approach to migration to address our own specific social, economic, educational and demographic needs – which are distinctly different to the rest of the UK’s.
“The Scottish Government greatly values the contribution migrants make to our economy, our culture and our society. With independence, Scotland would have the powers it needs to grow that contribution.”