Friday roundup

Differentiated immigration policies for the UK

Reuters, 6 February:

Scotland depends on young migrants to expand its workforce and its population and should seek a tailor-made deal as part of Brexit to manage its own migration, a cross-party Scottish parliamentary committee said on Monday.

… [T]he committee said that Scotland’s population decline, a source of concern for decades, had been reversed in recent years by young migrants arriving from the EU and settling.

“The committee believes … that there are acute risks to Scotland of a loss of the existing EU migrants or a decline in future migration,” it said, citing evidence of the importance of EU migrants to a range of economic sectors.

“This leads us to conclude that there has to be a bespoke — or differentiated — solution for immigration policy in Scotland in the future (which) should be fully explored by the Scottish government and raised by it in its discussions with the UK and other devolved administrations.”

The Independent (1 March):

The UK economy is “sleepwalking into a disaster” unless the country adopts a nuanced regional immigration policy to fill the skills gap left by lower immigration after Brexit, a Parliamentary Committee was told on Tuesday.

Professor Robert Wright, Professor at the University of Strathclyde told committee members a Canadian system which allows different regions to independently identify required skills and set quotas for different professions would work in the UK.

Australia and Canada both have differentiated visa programmes to meet the economic and labour market needs of constituent states. For example, the British Columbia immigration programme “offers an economic immigration pathway for in demand foreign workers and experienced entrepreneurs who can contribute economically to the province.” Western Australia even controls immigration at the regional level within the state: the ‘Nominated Regional visa’ requires holders to “live and work in a regional or low population growth metropolitan area,” and prohibits living or working in Perth, the capital city.

Mood music: EU views on Scotland

Following the Brexit vote in June, a number of European politicians and officials have made encouraging comments about Scotland, contrasting markedly with 2014. We thought we’d collate some of them here, as they speak to the goodwill that Scotland is said to have in Europe, as well as giving clues as to possible EU negotiating positions as we approach the triggering of Article 50.

The big guns like German Chancellor Angela Merkel have largely been silent — aside from Taoiseach Enda Kenny putting in a good word, and Mariano Rajoy and François Hollande ruling out direct negotiations with Scotland — but many other senior figures have made public comments.

Firstly let’s address Spain, which is frequently mentioned in connection with an independent Scotland being accepted into the EU. The Spanish question has been answered before, but that doesn’t stop people from bringing it up. Before getting to the most recent comments we’ve seen by a Spanish politician, here’s the Prime Minister himself (date unknown) talking about the differences between Scotland and Catalonia:

Twitter user James D provided a translation, which we’ve verified with the very helpful Thomas at LinguaVox:

“And don’t speak to me about Scotland, which as you know, or should know, responds to very different historic and constitutional assumptions. And by the way, if Scotland had half of the powers that Catalonia has, they wouldn’t go to so much bother there!”

As Daniel Cetrà, currently Research Follow at the Centre on Constitutional Change, notes in this article from September 2014, Spain distinguishes its own constitutional questions from those of the UK, and would not object to Scottish independence achieved within the UK’s laws and constitution.

Buzzfeed’s Jamie Ross published an article on 1 February which gives us some insight into Spain’s current view. From that article, this is a quote by Fernando Maura, MEP and member of Spain’s joint committee on the EU:

“The difference between Spain and the UK is the constitutional system. In the UK, there is no constitution to say Scotland cannot leave the United Kingdom or have self-determination. This is not the case in Spain, there is not this possibility.

“If Scotland is independent from the United Kingdom, Scotland can negotiate with the European Union to become part of it. If that’s the case, Spain has not anything to do but negotiate in terms of our interests.”

So there we have it. This subject has been gone over so many times it’s arguably not even worth dedicating a whole post to it. So here’s what else European politicians have been saying about Scotland following the UK vote to the leave the EU…

22 February 2017, at the event “Brexit: The Reality Principle and the Pleasure Principle” in London:

“On Scotland, you [to the reporter] said there will be a referendum. I don’t know it. So I never answer hypothetical questions. I don’t know it, but there is a difference between a unilateral move of Scotland and a referendum — whatever the outcome may be — with the consent of Westminster. Because the referendum of two years ago, there was some kind of agreement on the simple fact of holding a referendum. If it is unilateral, then it becomes much more complicated, also for the European Union, because then you are in the case of separatism, and of course, as I said, we are not at that stage, but there is big difference in the way such a referendum is organised, independent from the outcome of the referendum. And this can have an impact on the position of EU member states — and not only Spain.”

— Herman von Rompuy, President, European Policy Centre, and President of the European Council (2009-14), responding to a reporter who asked about a possible Scottish independence referendum and how the EU should speak about Scotland while the referendum is underway; and also how it should deal with a yes vote. (In the video of the event, von Rompuy’s answer is about 52 mins in.)

Reported on 20 February 2017, from The Guardian via ITV News:

“The British government tries to divide and rule. They believe they can take members of parliament out of certain nations … to win support by dividing us.

“If they try to negotiate while trying to interfere in our side then we can do that too. We can make a big fuss over Scotland. Or Northern Ireland.”

— Elmar Brok, MEP; former Chair, European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs

Early February 2017, from The Guardian:

“There are a number of official candidate countries — Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia [and] Herzegovina, [but] they are still quite some way away from meeting the criteria for membership. And obviously were Scotland to become independent, they would join that list.

“Now, it might be easier for an independent Scotland to meet those criteria. The fact that all your legislation has to be in alignment with existing European rules would presumably not be too difficult for Scotland, compared with, say, Montenegro. And that might enable them to move faster than others.”

[On joining the Euro:]

“All member countries are committed to eventual membership of the euro with the exception of the opt-outs that exist for the UK and Denmark. But there is no stipulated timeline for joining the euro.”

— Jacqueline Minor, Head of Representation to UK, European Commission

Continue reading Mood music: EU views on Scotland


Scotland’s deficit and joining the EU

Some commentators have suggested that an independent Scotland could not join the EU with its current budget deficit, which – based on the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) 2015-16 report – was 9.4% in 20151. This was the biggest in the EU, 1.9% worse than the next country, Greece, and 7% greater than the EU28 deficit of 2.4%.

But is it the case that Scotland’s ascension to EU statehood would be prevented by its current fiscal position? Regardless of your opinion on the validity of the GERS figures (which only really show how Scotland is performing as part of the UK, with limited control over economic policy2), you might reasonably expect the EU to look at these figures when considering Scotland’s membership, since they’re the only ones that exist.

The deficit would almost certainly exclude Scotland from joining the euro (a condition of which is a deficit of no more than 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and government debt of no more than 60%). But what about the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), which some commentators cite? The EU describes the SGP as “…a set of rules designed to ensure that countries in the European Union pursue sound public finances and coordinate their fiscal policies.” Its criteria also demand a 3% deficit limit and debt-to-GDP ratio of no more than 60%3.

“It’s a myth that Scotland will have to meet the deficit criteria to join the EU.” contacted Steve Peers, Professor of EU, Human Rights and World Trade Law at Essex University, and asked how – given the deficit – he thought the SGP would play into Scotland’s EU ascension should it vote for independence. He told us: “It’s a myth that Scotland will have to meet the deficit criteria to join the EU,” adding: “The Pact isn’t binding, although some EU legislation on reducing deficits would apply. However, those laws are applied quite flexibly.”

When Croatia become the 28th member state in 2013, its deficit was over 3%.

For context, based on the latest (2015) Eurostat figures, six EU countries had a deficit of over 3% of GDP in 2015: Croatia, France, the UK, Portugal, Spain, and Greece. In 2014, 13 countries exceeded the 3% ceiling. Perhaps most interestingly, when Croatia become the 28th member state in 2013, its deficit was over 3% (6.2% in 2010, 7.8% in 2011, 5.3% in both 2012 and 2013) and has remained over 3% since (although they have since been striving to meet the 3% limit).

We also looked at the Fiscal Stability Treaty, an accord signed in 2012 to “reinforce the budget discipline of euro area governments following the sovereign debt crisis that started in 2010.” It covers euro area countries, but other EU states can join if they wish to do so4. We reached out on Twitter to Dr Kirsty Hughes – writer and commentator on international and European politics, and former senior political adviser in the European Commission – and asked whether she thought Scotland would have to sign up to the treaty. She said it wouldn’t have to, as it’s an intergovernmental treaty (as opposed to being written into existing EU treaties5) – though there would probably be pressure to do so. Dr Hughes also said that a key question would be whether the treaty would be brought into the EU on Brexit, adding that there would “equally be a reluctance at [the] moment to re-open EU treaties.” believes Scotland should aim for a balanced budget within a sensible timeframe in the event of independence. But from what we’ve learned in the process of researching and writing this post, it seems that having to cut the deficit in a rush in order to be accepted into the EU won’t be necessary. We hope this post helps bring some clarity to the issue.

Reuters: Scottish government believes it can call, win new independence vote


The Scottish government is increasingly confident it can win a new independence referendum and is considering calling one next year as Britain exits the European Union, sources close to the Edinburgh administration say.

“I believe the Scottish government is thinking very, very seriously about going for an independence referendum next year,” Charles Grant, an adviser to the Scottish government’s Standing Council on Europe, said on Thursday.

One Scottish lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “If you don’t call (an independence vote) now, it’s off the cards for a generation,” because economic damage from Brexit would make voters nervous of more change.

Has the Scottish Government budget increased or decreased since 2010?

Full Fact, a UK fact checking charity, has posted an analysis of whether the Scottish Government budget has been cut since 2010.

It also has posts on the attainment gap (“…actually a slightly smaller gap than is the case in England and compared to the average of the mainly wealthy countries covered by the PISA figures”), and whether there is demand in Scotland for a second independence referendum.

An Independent Scotland and the EU: What Route to Membership?

European Futures published an informative article today by Drs Kirsty Hughes and Tobias Lock on how an independent Scotland could transition into becoming an EU member state.

It’s well worth reading. A few excerpts:

On political will

There is considerable political goodwill to Scotland in EU capitals since it is facing Brexit despite having voted to remain. That political goodwill, on current trends, is likely to feed into an effort to fast-track Scotland’s EU membership in the event of a successful independence vote.

On Schengen and the euro

Scotland – like Ireland – would be likely to keep the Schengen opt-out (and so stay in the Common Travel Area). It would probably have to commit to eventual euro membership, but would not meet the criteria yet, and would, like Sweden, be able to postpone this (probably indefinitely).

On accession timeframes

Accession talks could be completed well within one year (given that Scotland is arguably much more fully compliant with EU rules than Austria, Sweden and Finland were in 1993).

…whether ‘normal’ or ‘fast-track’, Scotland could be an independent Member State by 2023 or 2024, if it became independent from the UK by 2020.

While waiting for ratification, after signing the accession treaty, Scotland could take part in EU Council meetings as an observer, but not vote.

Scottish GDP intends to create a number of interactive charts looking at how Scotland fares on key economic and social indicators in the context of the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. The first, below, concerns simply Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It shows GDP (onshore), GDP (including a population share of extra-regio [offshore and overseas] UK economic activity), and GDP (including a geographical share of all offshore activity occurring in Scottish adjacent waters).

Tap and hover for more information.

Source: Quarterly National Accounts Scotland (QNAS) 2015 Q4 Statistical Bulletin and QNAS 2015 Q4 Summary Tables, produced by the UK Statistics Authority for the Scottish Government, published 3 May 2016