IN a bid to tackle their own failure to keep promises that can never be delivered, the Tories have now turned their ire on the next unfortunate group – dependents of overseas students.

Net migration figures published last week show that more than 600,000 people from all backgrounds have come to these islands.

The statistics resulted in the usual vitriolic outrage from right-wing conservatives. Anticipating this response, the Home Office laid down its latest proposals to bring the numbers down by announcing that it will restrict the number of dependents coming to the UK with overseas students.

In Scotland, this hysteria is often met by bemusement from parties across the political spectrum. For too much of our history, the tragedy has been that people often had to leave our shores to find a better life for themselves.

READ MORE: UK ban on families of international students will damage Scotland

Today, it is estimated that there are more than 40 million people around the world who consider themselves to have Scottish ancestry. Indeed, it was only with membership of the European Union that our population began to climb again.

Now of course we have plenty of New Scots. Compared to other independence movements around the world, a defining feature of our cause has been inclusivity.

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, if you’re here, you’re one of us.

You can be as Scottish as much or as little as you like – but if you do us the honour of coming to our islands and setting up a life here, you’ll have the same rights as the rest of us.

We all benefit from internationalism, whether it be by sharing food or cultural traditions.

The EU’s motto of “United in Diversity” rings true for us in Scotland. It is part of our story that we are a multicultural nation, descended from Scots, Picts, Vikings, Normans and many more over the centuries.

Having also studied as an international student myself in Germany and Poland, last week’s announcement by the UK Government therefore struck me as deeply uncomfortable.

It is a short-sighted and cynical manoeuvre which threatens to not only hurt our universities but also our own communities.

In Scotland, our universities regularly punch above their weight in the international rankings. This in turn attracts many of the world’s best and brightest to study here.

In addition to bringing their individual expertise and drive to learn, they also bring a tangible financial benefit to Scotland.

In 2021/22 for example, international students provided a net contribution of £37.4 billion to the UK economy, a rise from £23.6bn in 2015/16.

The same analysis shows that EU-domiciled students provided a net economic impact of £125,000 per student, with non-EU students providing a net economic impact of £96,000 per non-EU student.

In my own constituency of Stirling, this figure is £113.3 million alone.

Given the UK’s dire straits exacerbated by Brexit, these figures should be celebrated. Instead, the response was consternation from Suella Braverman et al.

I and many of my colleagues have spoken out against the UK’s actions using the parliamentary means at our disposal. Labour, as per usual, seem stuck on the fence.

Not content with having left Erasmus+ and its inexplicable dithering over rejoining Horizon, the UK seems intent on making it as difficult as possible for the world’s best and brightest to come here with these restrictions.

Based on these actions, what does the long-term trajectory suggest? If you want to come and study in an English-speaking country, Ireland is just across the water and part of the EU. If you want academic funding, any of the EU countries can provide you with access to Horizon funds.

If the costs of getting here become too high and you can get more funding to pursue your research in one of 27 other countries, many will inevitably make the rational calculation that they can go elsewhere other than the UK.

This is particularly acute for those researchers with families who might look to settle and contribute to their local communities as well as the wider academic community of the world.

The arrogance of the UK Government that the UK is somehow different and will get by fine risks throwing our universities under the bus for a generation.

In Scotland, we want to do things differently. Our nation has a heritage of innovation and entrepreneurialism which has helped Scotland positively shape the modern world.

With independence, Scotland will naturally have its own immigration policy – yet it will be an immigration system tailored to our needs and interests, not the mindless targets of a right-wing Tory government.

Back in the EU, an independent Scotland will be able to shape Erasmus and Horizon programmes whilst ensuring our citizens also have access to these world-leading programmes.

Exchange goes both ways and there are many Scots who will continue to go out into the world and bring back the knowledge gained from their experiences.

International students and their dependents should be celebrated for what they bring. An independent Scotland will look to set up an environment where our universities, our students, researchers, as well as our local communities can all thrive and benefit together.

We are, after all, united in diversity.