Johnson not for `more flexible’ Scots immigration policy

`Regional-based immigration points system’ `impossible’: Home Secretary

10th November 2009: Just over three months after Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy suggested that the immigrants choosing to live and work in Scotland could earn British citizenship more readily, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has rejected the calls for more flexible Scots immigration policy.

As per the available information, Johnson has turned down the proposals for a more flexible immigration system suggested to be introduced for Scotland for allowing the country to meet its specific needs.

Johnson, while speaking on the campaign trail in Glasgow North East, made it clear a regional-based immigration points system in the UK would be "impossible" because of complete freedom to travel in Britain.

The assertion comes soon after a meeting between Scottish external affairs minister Mike Russell and immigration minister Phil Woolas in London over the issue of handing over additional powers to Scotland on immigration.

It is believed that Russell was hoping to secure concessions to recognise specific demographic problems north of the Border, particularly with an ageing population.

Secretary Murphy too had stressed on factors like the ageing population and the need to carry out recruitment in tourism and other such sectors, while suggesting greater powers in immigration matters in July end.

In article, Murphy had in fact written: "Our need for a growing population is ranked along with the need to recruit to shortage occupations."

The new "points-based" system will benefit applicants, if they set up home in parts of the country in need of increased population”, Murphy had asserted.

The immigration issue was raised by Johnson soon after BNP leader Nick Griffin was chased off by anti-fascist protesters after he made a brief appearance in Glasgow North East.

Dismissing the concerns the far-right party would do well in the by-election, Johnson said the BNP was like bluebottles flying to a corpse wherever they thought there was a problem with immigration or ethnicity. But Scotland was not a fertile territory for fascist politics."

Reiterating his call for a case to be made for immigration, he said politicians need to reach out to the moderate majority, who understand the need for some immigration, but have concerns about the strain on public services when immigration is too high.

The SNP has all along been asking for powers over immigration. The party’s home affairs spokesperson at Westminster Pete Wishart had only recently asserted powers over immigration should be handed to Scotland, just as they are in the Australia’s states. It would not only benefit Scotland, but also help lift some of the pressure on the UK Home Office.

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