Labour migration policy and constitutional change in Scotland

Bell, David and Findlay, Allan and McCollum, David and Wright, Robert (2014) Labour migration policy and constitutional change in Scotland. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 30 (2). pp. 310-324. ISSN 1460-2121 (

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Scotland is holding a referendum on independence in 2014, which implies that the Scottish government would become responsible for migration policy in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote. Control over labour migration could be a vital policy tool for the Scottish government, influencing long-run economic growth rates and demographic change. This paper explores migration policy in the context of alternative constitutional outcomes for Scotland. It asks what scope a small economy that is intimately linked to a neighbouring larger economy has in shaping immigration policy. It finds that the level of international migration to Scotland is relatively low and that there are some significant differences in migrant characteristics compared to the rest of the UK (RUK). It also considers the political economy aspects of labour immigration through analysis of recent survey data. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, we would argue that Scotland would benefit from a more nuanced approach to immigration policies rather than the current ‘one size fits all’ UK-wide model.