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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 06:54 GMT
Denial over population plan clash
Immigration centre
Clashes over plans to attract skilled foreign workers have been denied
Claims of clashes between London and Edinburgh over First Minister Jack McConnell's Fresh Talent drive have been denied by a UK minister.

Immigration Minister, Des Browne, said the home secretary's announcement on immigration would recognise the special needs of Scotland.

New controls on economic migrants and tighter border patrols were unveiled by Charles Clarke on Monday.

Under his plans only skilled workers will be allowed to stay in the UK.

The waiting period to settle here will also increase from four to five years with a points system introduced to make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to work in this country.

Falling population

First Minister Jack McConnell welcomed the immigration proposals saying the plans recognised that Scotland had to meet the challenge of depopulation.

He added that the immigration and the asylum system must be the responsibility of the British government.

Mr McConnell insisted: "The proposals put us in a stronger position to attract fresh talent to Scotland."

First Minister Jack McConnell
Mr McConnell wants to tackle the dwindling population
Reports had suggested the Home Office would water down Mr McConnell's plan.

It is aimed at boosting Scotland's dwindling population by attracting 8,000 new people annually to Scotland by 2009.

Experts predict the number of people north of the border will fall below five million.

Allegations had been made that David Blunkett, then home secretary, consistently vetoed Mr McConnell's ideas for encouraging highly-skilled foreigners to live and work in Scotland.

But Mr Browne, Labour MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, insisted: "The stuff in the paper yesterday was paperwork that showed the development of policy. That sort of thing happens all the time."

He added: "There are discussions between officials about the development of policy.

"And the fact of the matter is that the previous home secretary and Jack McConnell had a very strong relationship about this issue, and he has a very strong relationship with Charles Clarke as well about this issue and has met him to discuss it."

The leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, was not happy with Mr Clarke's announcement in the House of Commons.

He said what Scotland needed was distinct policies to attract people to work and boost economic growth.

Mr Salmond MP, added: "It is time for Scotland to tackle its population crisis itself and for power to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament."

Clarke unveils immigration plan
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06 Apr 04 |  Scotland
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25 Feb 04 |  Scotland
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24 Feb 04 |  Scotland

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