The Real Homecoming
10 June 2013
I have lots of aspirations for an independent Scotland - indeed I'm often astounded that not everyone gets really excited at the idea of setting up a brand new country. Sadly it's a fact that many don't view the independence argument in that positive light, and one question I find being posed on Twitter quite often is "tell me one problem independence would solve".
Here's one which affects many people, including myself. A bit of background first.
In 1961, the population of Scotland was 5,179,000. By 2011 it was 5,295,000. That's an increase in 50 years of 2.2%.
In England & Wales over the same period, the population grew from 43,983,300 to 53,013,000, an increase of 20.5% - ten times as much as Scotland.
That's an astonishing difference, but whether it's a bad or good thing depends on your views on overpopulation or the need for growth.
Here are a few more examples (Data below from Nationmaster).
|England & Wales||+20.5%|
|Republic of Ireland||+62.4%|
It's pretty clear from the above that Scotland is not typical of the worldwide trend - in fact it's very much an outlier. Indeed, for much of the last 50 years Scotland's population was falling, almost uniquely. I'm not exploring the reasons here, simply pointing out, Scotland is different!
"So what's the problem?" asks my unionist friend from the first paragraph. For me, the problem is that Scotland's immigration policy is by necessity the same policy as the rest of the UK, despite that fact that Scotland's needs are totally different. And within the UK, there's nothing we can do about it. I don't think the UK's immigration policy is good for the UK as a whole, but then I don't live in or deal with the problems of the SE of England. I do know that a unionist argument of "we have representatives at Westiminster to push our case" means absolutely nothing when placed against ingrained beliefs in London and the Home counties.
I'm not saying that Scotland needs a different immigration policy for economic reasons - that may be true, but we have freedom of movement within the EU, so really we should be able to attract people if we can offer them jobs.
My issue is with the personal side of the UK's immigration policy. My son lives with his American wife in Colorado. Because the south-east of England is so opposed to immigration, he cannot move back here with her unless he can prove he has a job earning at least £18,600 per annum.
That's a lot harder for a young man starting his career in the Highlands than it would be for one in London or the South-East of England where more jobs are available and average wages are higher, so the law actually discriminates against us here in favour of richer parts of the country. And that's crazy, because up here we're desperate for young people and families to settle, whereas London is 'full up'.
As it happens, he doesn't want to return at the moment, but this situation is not unique. I'm personally aware of the case of a young English woman who recently moved back to the UK from the far-east where she'd been travelling with her American husband and small daughter. She came to the Black-Isle village I'm from and settled in nicely, but after 3 months had to leave, having found the immigration rules impossible. This area would have benefitted greatly from their presence over the next few years. Shockingly, to bring your child back here means you must earn an additional £3,800 for the first one, and £2,400 for subsequent ones.
And there are plenty of other cases - a comment from Rob in Jamaica below this Bella Caledonia post explains his thwarted wish to return home, and this from the BBC quotes a self-employed businessman whose working status prevents him living in the UK with his wife and children.
The world has changed over the last few years, and youngsters regularly find their lifelong partners when travelling, or over the internet. If your child marries an Aussie, a Kiwi, a Canadian, Indian, Japanese, Brazilian or South African partner, why would your country make it hard for them to come home with their families?
So in answer to my unionist friends' question, independence would allow many Scots to return here to live in, work in and contribute to their country.