Immigration and high tax do not mix, says Mundell

The Scottish secretary has said that Nicola Sturgeon is wrong to demand control over immigration while setting tax rates so high that Scotland becomes an unattractive destination for people looking for work.

David Mundell was reacting to demands from the SNP that the Scottish government be given control over immigration policy after Brexit.

Mr Mundell questioned the wisdom of asking to introduce a separate Scottish immigration policy to attract more people to Scotland, while at the same time deterring people from coming to Scotland to work because of high taxes.

Scottish ministers want higher-rate taxpayers to pay more from April than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. It would be the first time in 300 years that this has been the case.

The Scottish budget, which will write this change into law, is due to be passed in the Scottish parliament today.

SNP leaders are also pressing the UK government to give Scotland control over immigration. Scottish ministers claim this would allow Scotland to embrace an “open-door policy” to European immigrants at the time when the UK leaves the European Union.

Mr Mundell said that the two policies — tax and immigration — worked against each other. He said: “Of the people that come into the United Kingdom at this moment, only 4 per cent of those people end up in Scotland.

“Making Scotland the highest-taxed part of the United Kingdom is not necessarily the way to attract medical professionals to come to Scotland.”

Mr Mundell said that the SNP’s tax decisions would not only affect workers from the European Union. He said: “The other thing Scotland relies on is people coming from elsewhere in the UK and we certainly don’t want to be putting in place any impediment that would impact on people coming here from other parts of the UK.”

A Scottish government source said: “Our compromise proposals, including transfer of immigration powers to Holyrood, have so far not been met by an equal compromise by the UK government, whose response fails to live up to their rhetoric of equal partnership.”

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s former ambassador to the EU, has expressed doubts about an independent Scotland staying in the single market. “I would think that the usual suspects in some member states would be extremely worried about the precedent,” said. “You start with Spain, but probably have Belgium and Italy as well.”