Scotland’s education secretary has claimed the UK's immigration policy is “driven by UKIP and by a nasty xenophobia”.
Scotland’s education secretary will today launch a strongly worded critique of the UK government’s immigration policy, declaring that it is “being driven by UKIP and by a nasty xenophobia”.
Michael Russell is due to address an education conference organised by the Economic and Social Research Council to outline his concerns at the impact of the Tory-led government’s immigration plans on student numbers in Scotland.
In his speech, Russell will highlight figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which show that the number of students from India studying at Scottish Universities has halved since the coalition came to power in 2010.
The figures reveal the number of such students in Scotland fell from 3,290 in 2010-11 to 1,665 in 2012-13.
Declaring the UK government’s position to be one that “revolts” him, Russell will say:
“The debate south of the Border is being driven by Ukip and by a nasty xenophobia which certainly revolts me and I think revolts many others.
“I proposed the Global Excellence Fund to allow all universities to invest in global talent.
“But they are up against an immigration policy entirely foc-used on cutting numbers and measuring success by restriction and expulsion.”
He will continue:
“The second problem arises from the effects of the first. When students are excluded, when genuine scholars are treated with suspicion, then the reputation of the UK, and by association Scotland as a place to study, is undermined.
“It is essential that Scotland is able to set our own policies on migration and citizenship. Scotland needs to be seen as a welcoming place, open for academic and research business and more than willing to see those of talent staying if they wish to build lives and careers. That cannot happen without independence.”
Russell’s comments have been responded to with rigour by the UK government, with Scotland office minister, David Mundell declaring that it shows a complete lack of understanding about immigration policy. He expanded:
“This is an outrageous comment from Mike Russell.
“It shows a complete lack of understanding of immigration policy. First, there is no cap on numbers of foreign students at universities and no bar to EU students coming here to study.
“Second, the same figures he uses show that the number of students from China, the US, Malaysia, Canada, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Thailand studying in Scotland all rose in 2012/13.
“Finally, it is simply ridiculous of him to talk about xenophobia when his own government talks about pursuing a plan for tuition fees if Scotland chose to leave the UK which would be illegal under EU law as it discriminates against students in the continuing UK simply on the basis they are English, Welsh or Northern Irish.”
Declaring Russell’s to be unhelpful, Scottish Labour’s deputy education spokesperson Neil Bibby responded:
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“There is absolutely no place for these intemperate comments when people are coming together to discuss issues as important as Scottish education.
“This is hypocrisy from a man who decides whether he will charge tuition fees based on nationality.”