Immigration policy should be devolved to UK nations and regions after Brexit to cater for different labour needs, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Speaking in London, she hit out at Theresa May’s government for a “frustrating” lack of openness to the idea.
She said it was time to follow the lead of some federalised nations and scrap the “one size fits all” approach to immigration.
Addressing News UK’s Scotland Means Business event in London, she warned Scotland risks a “disastrous” fall in its working population when Britain leaves the European Union.
Mrs Sturgeon said: “Increasingly we see across business, across university across society much better support for Scotland having much more autonomy and flexibility around immigration.
“We hear the same arguments here in London and increasingly in other parts of the UK as well.
“Is it right any longer to have a ‘one-size fits all’ immigration policy for the whole UK when the demographic and labour needs of different parts of the UK vary quite considerably?”
In February the Scottish Government introduced a discussion document that set out the idea of regional immigration, arguing different parts of the UK have different workforce needs.
The Welsh Government and London mayor Sadiq Khan have also called for similar proposals.
However, Mrs Sturgeon added: “There is not much openness at the top to that at the moment and that is deeply frustrating.”
Speaking later to Reuters TV, Mrs Sturgeon said she believed if the EU referendum were to be rerun it would be a narrow victory for Remain.
She added: “The one thing that does give me grounds for optimism, although the road ahead seems quite uncertain, in my view, are that the hard Brexiteer component within the UK Government, I don’t think commands a majority.
“Not within the House of Commons, and I don’t think it commands a majority across the country either.
“If the EU referendum were held again tomorrow, I think it would be narrowly to remain UK-wide rather than to leave.
“But I’m not sure there’s been an absolute sea change.”