Sturgeon putting UK security at risk by encouraging attempts to block immigration raids, Patel claims

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Home Secretary Priti Patel made the comments on Sunday morning  - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA
Home Secretary Priti Patel made the comments on Sunday morning - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

Priti Patel has accused Nicola Sturgeon of putting the security of the UK at risk by encouraging attempts to obstruct the deportation of illegal immigrants.

The Home Secretary said it was a “sorry state of affairs” to see Scottish nationalists seek to undermine the work of enforcement officers, after hundreds of protesters blocked the detention of two Indian nationals in Glasgow earlier this month.

Ms Sturgeon and other senior SNP and Labour figures sided with protesters in Glasgow's Pollokshields area - described as “a mob” by a Home Office source - when they surrounded a van earlier this month after a raid and eventually forced the release of the men after an eight hour stand off.

Police by an immigration van in Kenmure Street, Glasgow - Andrew Milligan/PA
Police by an immigration van in Kenmure Street, Glasgow - Andrew Milligan/PA

However, Ms Patel defended the officials, who she said had been “doing their job” by trying to remove two people “that had no legal basis to be in the United Kingdom”.

“Immigration policy is a reserved matter for the [UK] government here,” she told Sky News. “Quite frankly it's pretty clear that when it comes to the nationalists in Scotland, they would much rather have an immigration policy of open borders, no checks when it comes to criminals coming to the UK, and no border controls.

“I think it's an absolutely sorry state of affairs that we see the nationalists in Scotland, basically trying to thwart the safety and security of the British public, but also trying to prevent the British government from removing those with no legal basis to be in the United Kingdom.”

In a letter to Ms Patel signed by Ms Sturgeon, as well as the leaders of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens, the politicians called for an end to so-called “dawn raids” north of the border, even though the controversial operation in Glasgow began at around 9am.

They also asserted that Scotland had a “very different attitude to immigration”, a claim that is not backed up by opinion polls, which generally find attitudes on the issue are broadly similar on both sides of the border.

The letter blamed the Home Office for sparking the protests, saying to “provoke people into coming out and mixing with hundreds of other households” was “as unforgivable as it is dangerous” during a Covid-19 surge in Glasgow's Southside.

The letter called for an end to unannounced raids and offered to discuss “alternative suggestions” without providing details of what these could be.

In its blueprint for independence ahead of the 2014 referendum, the SNP Government said that an independent Scotland would adopt a “points based immigration system” and said “immigration controls and practice” would meet “certain shared standards” with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

The paper also acknowledged that immigration controls and “forcible removals” would also be needed in a new Scottish state.

Ms Patel said she would push ahead with strengthening laws in an effort to make it easier to remove people who do not have the legal right to stay in the UK.

Anne McLaughlin, the SNP’s immigration spokeswoman at Westminster, said: "Priti Patel demonstrated perfectly how the Tory government's callous immigration policies stand in direct contrast with the open and welcoming environment that would be presented by an independent Scotland as a member of the European Union.

"Scotland resoundly rejected the dawn raids of the Home Office, we will continue to urge the Tories to bring these to an end.

"We cannot trust the Tories with Scotland's immigration policy, it is not fit for purpose for the needs of Scotland. The only way we can re-establish an immigration policy that fits with Scotland's economy is as an independent country at the top table of the European Union."