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Lib Dem to test regional-based immigration policy on Scotland first

Policy being seen as attempt to direct new migrants to Scotland

5th May 2010: The Liberal Democrats have asserted they would test their proposed regional-based immigration policy on Scotland first.

The critics have already dubbed the proposal as impractical, and see it as an attempt to direct the new migrants to under-populated areas such as Scotland.

The announcement to come up with such policy was made by the Lib Dem in the run up to the general elections.

The proposal aims at making the point-based system flexible at regional level. In over crowded regions or travel-to-work areas where public services are already overstretched, the qualifying points for a company to hire a skilled worker from outside Europe will be higher, than for the rest of the country.

Similarly, it will be lower in areas of labour deficiency. The labour market experts on the migration advisory committee will take the decisions on the status of areas.

As such, it will be harder to get a work permit in London and the south-east, as it is busting at seams. At the same time, it will be possible to fill skill shortages in London with overseas staff.

The party’s home affairs spokesman has already clarified immigrants wont be prohibited from working in London.

Chris Huhne has added the immigrants won’t also be restricted from living anywhere in Britain, under the proposed policy.

Already, the party’s proposal has come under fire by The Highly Skilled Migrants Forum and London First, as work permits for foreign skilled labour would be available more easily for under-populated areas such as Scotland, while permits for London and south-east England would be comparatively more difficult to obtain.

Raising objections, the Forum says it is an impractical proposal, while London First — representing businesses in the City — insists restrictions can damage long-term business prospects.

Elaborating, it says global business investment depended on easy mobility of the staff around offices, even from overseas.

So far, Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy has suggested that the immigrants choosing to live and work in Scotland could earn British citizenship more readily. But Home Secretary Alan Johnson has rejected the calls for more flexible Scots immigration policy.

Johnson 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 made it clear a regional-based immigration points system in the UK would be "impossible" because of complete freedom to travel in Britain.

Secretary Murphy 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.

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