THE MAIDEN SPEECH of Airdrie’s new MP was predictable in too many ways. Having laid on generic platitudes to NHS staff, who were until recently close to striking against the government, Anum Qaisar-Javed followed the well-trodden path of Pakistani Scottish politicians attacking the British government on migration.
The only thing shocking about that opening paragraph is that it has not been said before. From Anas Sarwar through Humza Yousaf to this new MP – and many others – the lobbying for that community is as subtle as a brick. We all know migration is not devolved and having myself campaigned in Airdrie for the Holyrood and then parliamentary elections it is clear to me that across central Scotland criticism of immigration policy and a need for ever more migration from the third world did not register among voters.
Both the Scottish Labour leader and the former justice minister have launched into unprovoked tirades in the Scottish Parliament about how white Scotland is. Such pernicious, blatant reductionism of social mobility to race and race alone is atrocious and now all too common. Race hustling is divisive and those who employ it are doing so deliberately for short term political gain.
The MSPs are both of Pakistani descent, prominent in race-based campaigns and have decried the Home Office daring to act during Eid to deport two… Sikh men. I am neither Muslim nor Sikh but I think I’m rather good at distinguishing the two. What was the obsession with Eid? If any deportations had happened over Easter I’m not sure we’d have known.
The SNP went further this year and racially discriminated against candidates not from approved ethnic minorities in their regional list rankings. As so often in England, now being white and male – and heaven forbid working class – means a place on the reserve bench. This is a disaster for representative politics for the obvious reason that such politicians, once elected, feel obliged to represent their party bosses rather than their wider communities.
Quite how Airdrie and Shotts cried out to its new MP for more migration is a mystery, certainly to those in Airdrie but here again the speech was little more than race hustling. It started by telling us, for the umpteenth time, how the NHS would fall apart without immigration and that the British government’s points based system was hurting Scotland.
There is a slight problem with Miss Javed’s analysis: it is wrong on every level.
The attack was not points-based but pointless
The first is the attack on a points-based system. All the way back to at least 2015 the SNP called for such a system, even before the EU referendum:
An SNP government would pursue a Points Based immigration system that would “better meet Scotland’s needs” potentially adding “new categories of skills” and possibly incentivising movement to remote areas to help “community sustainability”.
It might surprise Miss Javed to know there is indeed a Shortage Occupation List for Scotland created by the Migration Advisory Council. It so far only extends the British points-based system to include a few additional roles including a nuclear chemical engineer, but that it exists at all is testimony to the flexibility the UK provides for.
While outside the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are part of the Common Travel Area and the UK carries out immigration clearance for them. They do have autonomy over work permits and have their own systems for ensuring migration is needs-based.
They have moved away from points-based systems as being very centrally planned and inflexible and instead use employer-based work permits, only allowing employers to hire from off island if locals cannot be found to do the work. The system delivers community cohesion and unemployment rates routinely below 2%, that is below frictional rates of temporary unemployment.
Vote Leave suggested Scotland could adopt such a system, leaving the UK to handle immigration clearance and settlement but for employment in Scotland to accommodate employer specific schemes. Local authorities, charged with housing and school provision would be best placed to weight the impacts of such schemes.
Migration is a political choice
The second fault is to link restrictive migration policies with a threat to public services. This is very New Labour and very old hat. The reason the UK has relied on migration historically for the NHS is purely political. Tory governments tend to underinvest in clinical training, as has the SNP government when it cut nursing and midwifery training places. Both governments also continue to cap medical school places for native students and instead rely on the wee bairns of overseas millionaires and third world officials to swell the ranks of our medical schools.
Labour tends to go in hard with recruitment but does so knowing it is unlikely they will be in government for long, so Labour tends to binge on migration to quickly restore staffing levels to safety.
That is the formula for reliance on migration, first to underinvest and then to overcompensate within a very short space of time meaning there is no time for long term planning. The SNP wants to ride both horses in cutting training for Scots and also ensuring Labour cannot attack them on staffing numbers.
So the SNP wants to push migration into overdrive to cover up its appalling lack of training for Scots. That is a combination of the most cynical parts of Major and Blair in one government. Underinvest, then import the rest.
It is not the behaviour of a government wanting independence to harness our own resources – but quick-fix managerialism that robs Scottish students of a chance for decently-paid highly-skilled work with our biggest employer.
If only there were something we could do
A hallmark of race hustling is using platforms not to solve problems but to imagine or redefine them to suit an agenda. For six years the SNP has had a bucketload of MPs stewing on the backbenches. What exactly have they been doing?
When the SNP wasbusy encouraging a crowd to prevent immigration controls being carried out I thought I’d dig a little. I’ve gone through Hansard carefully and to my amazement the local MP Alison Thewliss hasn’t mentioned the case of the two Sikh men. Fancy that? 50-plus MPs have ring side seats in which to raise constituency cases and these were not raised. Could it be the two men had never contacted their MP about their migration issues? Given they were well known in the community, did no one think to drop Thewliss a bell asking her to raise their case officially with the Home Secretary? How odd, if the case.
Even their local MSP Nicola Sturgeon didn’t seem aware of their case until it hit social media. Not exactly finger-on-the-pulse politics, is it?
While the SNP bemoan UK immigration policy and undermine our law it’s odd that in six years not one of them has proposed via a White Paper to amend the law. I cannot find Early Day Motions calling for substantive changes in the law. Of all the NHS staff mentioned by Miss Javed, given they are here in the UK what exactly is the problem with points-based immigration from her perspective?
Perhaps the NHS in Scotland could release a list of visa applications rejected by the Home Office for positions in healthcare? I’m sure either way that would make for interesting reading.
Perhaps the SNP would commit to an independent body to set minimum safe staffing levels for the next 20 years and ask other parties to sign up to it, linking that number to the number of training places funded for Scots?
If only there was something we could do, instead of listening to professional race hustlers lobby on behalf of favoured sectors of society as a fig leaf for a terrible record of poor planning for public services.
When the truth is ugly, any description of it will look ugly. The points raised in this article are ugly. We need to face that ugly truth and get a grip of migration policy. One that is not based on fantasies and favouring some communities over others. It has an unhealthy history in Scotland and the SNP seems to want to exacerbate division wherever possible.
Our politicians need to be able to represent everyone. That means British, Polish, Pakistani, Leave, Remain, and (gulp) Christian voters. That is the challenge and the fight worth having, to represent everyone and especially those whose vote you do not court.
We must call out clientelism wherever it lurks.