Last week saw the Rwanda Bill pass in the House of Commons. While Scotland’s demographics demand an increase in migration, Westminster has been gripped by the latest Tory immigration psychodrama.
The Bill aims to deter asylum seekers by offshoring their processing to Rwanda. Rather than curbing dangerous small boat crossings by opening safe and legal routes for people to claim asylum here, the Prime Minister is taking hard-line stance to appeal to right-wing voters in England – and to shore up his own position from some of the rabid Brexiteers on his backbenches.
Now that it has passed third reading, it will cause incredible damage to the reputation of the United Kingdom abroad, and means some of the most vulnerable people on the planet continue to be shut out, or in desperation for safety turn to small boats as the only means to reach the UK.
It allows the UK Government to declare Rwanda a “safe country” – despite the Supreme Court ruling that it is not. Worryingly, it also gives UK Ministers the ability to repeal sections of the Human Rights Act. That should concern all of us.
This, in a transparent attempt to boost this Prime Minister’s sinking poll numbers, is a disgrace.
Scotland’s representatives overwhelmingly voted against this legislation, but as in everything at Westminster, Scotland’s needs and voice were ignored.
Here in Angus South, we understand the requirement for migration. Our demographic challenges are clear: we face an aging population and an acute need for young, skilled workers to join key sectors like health and social care, hospitality, or our world-class agricultural sector, and enrich our communities by making their lives here.
Yet it isn’t solely for our economy that we need to be open to the brightest and best. The hostile environment to immigration is causing serious damage to our education sector, with many international students, not to mention staff, choosing to go elsewhere. That poses a real risk to the financial wellbeing of many our universities.
And it is clear from the rhetoric emanating from Labour that if they are successful in this year’s UK General Election there will be no significant deviation from the path established by the present British Government.
Just as they now embrace Brexit so they appear signed up to an immigration policy which is just as harmful to Scotland’s interests as leaving the EU has proved.