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Sabre-rattling on immigration

The prime minister's attempt to make the UK less friendly to some Eastern Europeans risks making the country less welcoming to all, writes Alison Goddard.

David Cameron has called for restrictions to be placed on the benefits paid to people newly arrived in the UK from Bulgaria and Romania. In an article published today in the Financial Times, Mr Cameron writes that earlier "failures in immigration policy were closely linked to welfare and education. If it does not pay to work, or if British people lack skills, that creates a huge space in our labour market for people from overseas to fill. You cannot blame people for wanting to come here and work hard; but (£) the real answer lies in training our own people to fill these jobs. That is what this government is doing: providing record numbers of apprenticeships, demanding rigour in schools and building a welfare system that encourages work." He also promises to restrict welfare payments to those who have lived in the UK for at least three months, a policy that risks sending the impression that the UK is unwelcoming to all immigrants, including students.

It is a point that has not been lost on Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, who yesterday published a 670-page White Paper on Scottish independence that included a bid for Scotland to appear friendlier to highly educated immigrants than England. We have published a package of content available only to subscribers to HE, including: a news report of what Scottish independence could mean for universities north of the border; and an analysis by Sheila Riddell of the University of Edinburgh on the difficulties that remain to be solved following its publication. The package also includes a report of a Whitehall publication that warns of adverse financial consequences of independence and an analysis by David Raffe, also of the University of Edinburgh, which calls for English policymakers to be aware of the effects on Scottish institutions of decisions they take. Today the White Paper will be debated in the Scottish Parliament.

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