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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 10:47 GMT
Flexible immigration policy call
Trevor Phillips
Mr Phillips will address a conference in St Andrews later
The UK's equality watchdog has suggested immigration policy should be "tilted" to help Scotland acquire the skills it needs.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, will tell a conference in St Andrews immigration should be handled flexibly.

He believes Scotland's biological and pharmaceutical industry has specific demands for skilled workers.

His views have been given a cautious welcome by the Scottish Government.

Under Home Office rules introduced last month, people wishing to work in the UK must satisfy various criteria before they are allowed in.

Migrant workers

Points are allocated to different employment sectors - but the Home Office view is for the UK as a whole.

Mr Phillips believes flexibility could be delivered through a work permit system which would allow suitable migrant workers to work only in Scotland.

"We're in the new position of having a managed migration system where basically everyone who comes into the UK has to have a job," Mr Phillips told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland.

"They will be admitted if they have enough points awarded for having jobs, speaking English, having a high level of education and so on.

So, in a sense coming to Scotland would mean that migrants would find it easier to fit in
Trevor Phillips

"What I'm suggesting here is a part of the UK - Scotland - which like the rest of Western Europe suffers from an ageing population and needs more people, particularly more skilled people to boost it's economy to keep its prosperity, could benefit if we tilt the points system in such a way that potential migrants perhaps get some extra points for coming to Scotland."

Mr Phillips said the move would "turn a number of people who might otherwise go elsewhere towards Scotland".

He said the expectation would then be that immigrants would then stay in Scotland to complete the work they came to do.

Mr Phillips also said that if there was to be more integration, then new arrivals must be made to feel integrated and "that they belong".

He added: "The work that we've done in previous years shows that oddly enough, immigrants find it much easier to essentially integrate with Scottish and Welsh identities, perhaps because they're strong civic and cultural identities, than they find with other kinds of identities within Britain.

"So, in a sense coming to Scotland would mean that migrants would find it easier to fit in and easier to feel loyal to the place where they are and that would give Scotland a particular attraction for migrants."

The Scottish Government said its existing Fresh Talent initiative is aimed at attracting suitably skilled workers.

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