A 'Scottish visa' could help to repopulate rural parts of Scotland - but how would it work?

Friday, 19th February 2021, 2:31 pm
Updated Friday, 19th February 2021, 2:33 pm
The scheme would try to mitigate trends of population decline (Photo: Shutterstock)

Advisers to the Scottish Government have suggested a 'Scottish visa' to solve the issue of depopulation in rural areas.

In a report published this month, the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population said that a post-Brexit visa to allow migrants to move to rural parts of Scotland could help to offset population decline and the challenges associated with it.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously dismissed the idea of the four nations having different rules on immigration, stating that it would make matters overly complicated for employers.

However, the expert group argued that the new points-based immigration system in place in the UK could be tweaked to encourage migrants with relevant skills to move to rural areas in Scotland.

How would a Scottish visa work?

The report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government to explore the viability of such an idea, put forward three options for a rural migration scheme, of which a so-called Scottish visa was one.

The Scottish visa would use a points-based system, prioritising things like age, language skills, occupational experience and ties to the region, inviting migrants to move to targeted rural areas.

Report authors also suggested the Government could introduce a quota for the number of migrants admitted, possibly having a separate quota for each region.

They added that such a scheme would require a generous package to be available to migrants after their move, with a requirement to stay in the area for the first four years, after which they'd be eligible for permanent residency in the UK.

The potential disadvantage of such a visa is that it wouldn't include a guarantee of employment - something which report authors say could be mitigated by including criteria for visa recipients to possess particular occupations or skills relevant to the area.

As of yet, there are no firm plans for the introduction of such a visa, with report authors saying such a scheme would need to be piloted with a group of around 200 migrants to monitor its impact before being rolled out more widely.