It's time Scotland had its own migration deal based on local needs

Home Affairs
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Dr. Jon Stanley


Back in the heady days of the referendum a little note was slipped into Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket and also, handily, into the national press.

Vote Leave’s Director in Scotland, Tom Harris, called for something rather shocking. That Scotland could get its own deal on migration if we voted leave. Some unionists and traditionalists were outraged and best of all Nicola Sturgeon dismissed it out of hand. How very silly.

Tom has always been for me a very pragmatic and decent guy. I was lucky enough to be able to touch base with him in the very tight circles of Scottish Euroscepticism.  We discussed quite a few things but one was the experience I saw first-hand on the Isle of Man.

Here British citizens, without a voice in Westminster, plan their own migration arrangements with the EU and UK.  I can’t suggest that level of autonomy for possible for Scotland given how much more our welfare state and defence are integrated but I was surprised 80,000 people seem to find migration just fine.

More than fine in fact. Their policy is based on needs not points. Their labour code requires employers prove they have made reasonable attempts at local recruitment and then issue work permits to job applicants if locals cannot do the job instead.

There are no benefits given out to anyone not an Island Person for five years, nor a council house for anyone not resident for 10 years and at least 18 years of age.  How very rabidly right wing!

The Isle of Man however is anything but. It is first and foremost conservative. Real One Nation conservatism of the dark blue and local kind.  Income tax is 10%, the abattoir is state owned and the creamery is collective. Fishermen fish without foreign competition, the NHS is free at the point of us and is to be fair very good. Where else can a junior doctor expect a face to face meeting with relatives where the Minister of Health sits in and advocates for them!

The welfare state is generous because migration policy has led to an unemployment rate of 1.3% and economic policy has gifted the island a very low regulation culture which has been a boon to banking, finance and shipping.

There is also, very noticeably, no crime. There is also no political correctness of any kind. 

There is no reason why Scottish local authorities cannot be given exactly the same powers as Tynwald, far better those in charge of social housing and schools have a final say over who arrives here to make this place their own.

The health service has staff from across the globe and sponsors locals to study medicine too. No one cares because they know everyone here who is not from here, is here because they are wanted and needed by objective assessment. They know a company’s use of foreign labour is accounted for when considering new work permits and those at the bottom are not squeezed by rising house prices and dilution of essential services by poor arrivals.

The Manx migration policy is a marvel because it is simple and needs based. Scottish local authorities, and especially soon to be Conservative ones, are perfectly placed to deliver the most bespoke migration deal anywhere within the UK.

Dr. Jon Stanley is Health Research Fellow at the Bow Group, a Junior Doctor and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons