Brian Wilson is absolutely right in pointing out that the Scottish government has no room for manoeuvre on immigration. For years I have been pointing out this aspect of independence. Scotland cannot afford to erect a hard border with a rest-UK that takes 65% of Scottish exports. If and when constitutional independence happens, such issues will have to be decided by consensus within the framework of a confederation of autonomous states covering the so-called British Isles.
The danger of independent Scotland as a back door for continental powers was by far the main English motivation for the 1707 union. The present situation is no different in principle even if it differs in the respect that the lurking danger is no longer seen by the English as armed invasion, but being overwhelmed by a mass influx of population from strange cultures that would in the end swamp the local culture and prove impossible to integrate or support.
There can be no objection to immigration as such, so long as it remains at the level of a trickle that can introduce new blood, new ideas, and generally breathe life into fossilised communities; every society needs that. The trouble arises when that trickle becomes a flood that not only swamps a centuries-old culture and refuses to integrate, but also coagulates into a parallel society, forms ghettos, and retains loyalties other than towards the host country that are a standing nightmare for security services. Experience has shown that this danger can be most acute in second and third generations of immigrant families, while the original settlers are more than happy to keep their heads down and lead quiet lives. There have been examples in Scotland.
Three years ago I had an article published in SR showing that towards the end of 2013, according to United Nations figures, some 232 million migrants were on the move worldwide outside their own homelands. Climate change is now coming to the forefront as one of the main causes of movement as large areas of the planet increasingly become unable to support human populations.
This was one of the main factors in causing the Syrian situation, when the cities were overwhelmed by a flood of incomers who were increasingly unable to make a living in the rural areas - not surprisingly, since the size of the overall population had doubled within a comparatively few years. It is a scientifically well-proven fact, even in animal studies, that overpopulation tends to increase the level of aggression within the ethnic or social groups concerned. It is not to be expected that migration will of itself eliminate such ingrained tendencies, even among the children of migrants, especially when it can be set off by the spark of religious fanaticism.
The United Nations has recognised such tendencies for many years, and in fact its agreements on development aid usually contain clauses on birth control and family planning, for which the emancipation and education of women is seen as the most effective method of implementation in the longer term. The overall UN policy is to tackle the population problem at its source in the countries of origin and their surrounding regions.
Under these circumstances, in an age of universal electronic communications and cheap transport, it is just lunacy for politicians in European states to encourage massive movements of population on pseudo-ethical ideological grounds, as Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon amongst others have done by making irresponsible statements that have circled the world and spread the impression that the grass is greener in Europe and that all comers are welcome. That may or may not be good politics, but it is rank bad statesmanship.
It is no wonder that the English view the Scottish government with apprehension on the immigration issue, and would prefer to keep it under control for as long as possible. Brian Wilson is quite right in his final conclusion, although from the rest of his article I suspect that his main purpose is just to mount a general attack on the SNP. There is no avoiding the need for a unified immigration policy covering the whole archipelago of the British Isles, including the Republic of Ireland. That can best be achieved through a confederal structure of autonomous states with a single policy on this issue arrived at by consensus. That, at any rate, is the policy advanced by the Scottish Democratic Alliance (SDA) think tank in its revised post-Brexit Scotland in Europe statement.
The first duty of a national government is towards its own people, to their safety, well-being, prosperity, social cohesion and cultural integrity, with due consideration for the interests of our next-door neighbours. That is what government is all about. By all means let us additionally do what we can, within the limit of our resources, to alleviate the distress of other peoples elsewhere in the world, but in the final analysis that has to be kept within the bounds set by practical statesmanship.