Alex Salmond’s bid to open Scotland’s borders to thousands of immigrants has provoked a stinging rebuke from David Cameron and his Ministers.
In an unprecedented attack, the First Minister has been told Scots should be given the chance of any job vacancies and that immigration is already ‘out of control’.
Immigration Minister Damien Green has rejected Mr Salmond’s plea that Scotland should be exempt from UK immigration rules and that a wave of non-EU nationals should be allowed to settle north of the Border.
The rebuke will come as a major blow to Mr Salmond and the SNP, who want Scotland to be ‘open to all’ and believe more immigrants would boost the country’s economy.
Mr Salmond also put forward plans to allow thousands of jobless students from abroad to remain in the country.
Last night, Mr Green said: ‘For too long, immigration was allowed to get out of control. This government is committed to getting immigration back to sensible levels and in a way that’s good for the economy and public services.
‘Both the UK and Scottish governments must work to ensure that Scottish graduates and the workforce gain the opportunities and skills they need to benefit the labour market.
‘Unregulated access to jobs for graduates from overseas would undermine that goal.’ Recent figures revealed record numbers of asylum seekers and immigrants have already pushed the Scottish population to a 33-year high of 5.2 million.
Mr Salmond told Holyrood a month ago that Scotland is ‘open to all’ and that the country’s ‘strength’ is its diversity, arguing that more immigrants are required to boost the country’s economy.
The Scottish Government submitted its proposals to the Home Office in March after the Coalition announced tough new rules to limit the number of non-EU workers into the UK.
Home Secretary Theresa May set a tough new cap of 21,700 a year, with prospective workers told they must have a graduate-level job, speak an intermediate level of English and meet specific salary and employment requirements.
But SNP External Affairs Minister Fiona Hyslop argued that Scotland should be given an exception from the ‘damaging’ and ‘negative’ migration cap, insisting thousands of non-EU migrants should still be able to come there.
Critics warned the SNP proposals could result in a flood of new migrants at a time when joblessness is at its highest in years and when the economy is suffering from the worst recession in a generation.
There were also fears the plans could open the back door to fresh, unchecked UK immigration as migrants entered Scotland legally and worked for a short time before crossing the Border into England in search of better wages.
Mr Green took a similar view and, in a letter to the Scottish Government on June 6, he rejected the SNP request.
Last night, Miss Hyslop said: ‘The Scottish Government presented specific proposals to meet Scotland’s particular needs to achieve economic growth. We have received a response and are giving it due consideration.’
Tory Scotland Office Minister David Mundell said: ‘The SNP’s plans were totally unrealistic when we are trying to get a grip on immigration.
‘It’s virtually impossible stop people coming to Scotland and then going south to England. The only way would be to set up Border patrols, which is just ludicrous.’
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