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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-11792: Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 4 October 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what representations it has made to the UK Government regarding establishing a Tier 4 visa pilot programme similar to that being trialled at universities in England, and what analysis it has carried of this trial.

Answered by: Alasdair Allan 25 October 2017

We remain concerned that UK immigration policies pose a significant risk to Scotland's Further and Higher Education institutions. The restrictive, one-size-fits-all UK approach to immigration doesn’t address the distinctive demographic, economic and social needs of Scotland, and there is growing support for Scotland to have powers needed to decide our own immigration policy. The Minister for International Development and Europe has a longstanding request to meet the UK Immigration Minister and intends to raise these issues in person when they meet.

The UK Government advised that the Tier 4 pilot was deliberately narrow in scope, to ensure that the outcomes could be adequately monitored. They advised that it has not been decided if and when the pilot will be rolled out more widely, and committed to undertaking a formal evaluation and engaging with stakeholders before any further steps are taken. Although the Scottish Government are not involved in evaluating the pilot which is taking place at four English Universities, we understand that the evaluation will be undertaken in mid 2018.

Myself and the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science jointly wrote to the UK Immigration Minister on 5 August 2016, asking that the UK Government consider widening the scope of the pilot to include Scottish institutions. The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science wrote to the UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation on 6 September 2016 expressing concern about the lack of consultation in Scotland in advance of the introduction of the pilot. The Minister for International Development and Europe also raised the issue at a meeting with the UK Immigration Minister on 1 December 2016.

The Scottish Government is concerned that the UK Government’s Tier 4 pilot was introduced without any prior consultation in Scotland and that Scottish institutions were not included. Scotland’s Higher Education institutions, and key stakeholder Universities Scotland, were similarly disappointed at the limited scope of the pilot.