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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Immigration policy 'laughable'
Jim Sillars
Jim Sillars said a Scottish immigration policy was a "foolish idea"
The former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party has branded calls for Scotland to have power over immigration policy as "ridiculous" and "laughable".

Jim Sillars said a demand by SNP leader John Swinney for the Scottish Parliament to be in charge of immigration in Scotland was a "foolish idea".

He said it would result in Scots having to produce their passport every time they wanted to travel to England.

An SNP spokeswoman accused Jim Sillars of "peddling Labour Party rhetoric against the SNP".

'Foolish ideas Mr Sillars' comments come days after a furious argument at Holyrood over locking up the children of asylum seekers with their parents at the Dungavel detention centre in South Lanarkshire.

The Scottish Executive had claimed that asylum policy was an area reserved to Westminster.

But MSPs were forced to debate the issue after the SNP used its own time to put forward a motion calling for an end to the detention of children at Dungavel.

Labour and its Liberal Democrat coalition partners joined forces to defeat the SNP move and call instead for Westminster to improve educational facilities at the centre.

Mr Sillars accused Mr Swinney of adopting a "ludicrous" position over his demands for immigration policy to be transferred to Holyrood.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's "Sunday Live" programme the former Glasgow Govan MP said: "I think John Swinney produced one of the most foolish ideas I've heard for a long time - that a devolved parliament in a unitary state should have power over immigration policy.

Jim Sillars
Jim Sillars attacked plans for a Scottish immigration policy

"That is not possible, in fact it's laughable if you think about it.

"If Scotland had a much more open door policy than south of the border then you would have to have borders on the border.

"John Swinney said it's an urgent matter that the parliament gets immigration policy. But in a devolution setting, that is laughable."

Mr Sillars also said he believed children should be kept at Dungavel if the alternative was separating them from their families.

He said: "If the parents are detained in Dungavel for a good reason, both a moral reason and a legal reason, then in my view children are better with their parents."

In the community

The SNP spokeswoman said: "What John Swinney and the SNP have been doing is discussing the case for Scotland to take responsibility for creating a civilised and humane approach to dealing with asylum seekers and their children."

Mr Sillar's' comments came as a newspaper poll claimed that a majority of people in Scotland back the government's controversial policy of locking up failed asylum seekers and their children.

The YouGov poll published in the Mail on Sunday showed that 59% believed asylum seekers whose appeals to stay in Britain have failed should be kept in the Dungavel.

More than three-quarters also agreed that asylum seekers' children should be detained alongside their parents rather than kept in the community.

The poll was carried out over two days this week and a total of 1,055 Scots were surveyed.

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