The Scottish Government’s Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said on Wednesday the UK Government’s new immigration proposals are “an insult to Scotland.”
The UK Government said it will prioritise access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its new post-Brexit points-based immigration system, setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labour from Europe.”
The new UK system will be in place from January 1, 2021, and will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and give visas only to those who have enough points.
It will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.
“They completely disregard the needs of our employers, our public services and our communities,” said Macpherson.
“There is a clear need for a fundamentally different approach to migration policy to reflect Scotland’s distinct demographic and geographical needs.
“The UK Government promised a system that would deliver for all of the UK including Scotland yet these proposals do not reflect the clear evidence from employers, local authorities, universities and experts about their needs. Indeed there is not a single reference to Scotland in the document.
“Telling employers that they will just need to adjust will be deeply concerning to our agriculture sector; to our care sector; and to our transport sector.
“We need an evidence based approach to immigration policy which reflects the needs of our economy and has been developed through engagement with employers and communities.
“The Scottish Government put forward a clear, workable proposal of devolving immigration powers by introducing a Scottish Visa, which would allow Scotland to attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for our communities and economy to flourish.
“Our proposals have widespread support across the business and third sector communities in Scotland, and it is time the UK Government listened to those voices, instead of ploughing ahead with their deeply damaging proposals which will devastate the Scottish economy and our future prosperity.”
Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “These plans spell absolute disaster for the care sector. Care doesn’t even get a mention in the home secretary’s plans.”
Donna Kinnair, CEO and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We are concerned that these proposals from the government will not meet the health and care needs of the population.
“They close the door to lower-paid healthcare support workers and care assistants from overseas, who currently fill significant numbers of posts in the health and care workforce.”
Food and Drink Federation policy manager Mark Harrison said: “We have concerns about access to those potential employees who won’t qualify through these ‘skilled’ routes such as bakery assistants, meat processors, and workers essential to the production of huge array of basic foodstuffs such as cheese, pasta, and sausages.”
Confederation of British Industry director general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, particularly abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from 30,000 pounds.
“Nonetheless, in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses.
“With already low unemployment, firms in care, construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected.”
British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: “Companies are already investing heavily in home-grown talent across the UK, but critical labour shortages mean firms will still need access to overseas workers at all skill levels.
“The new points system must be able to respond quickly to changing market needs, and the application process must be radically simplified.”
UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said: “Ruling out a temporary, low-skilled route for migration in just 10 months’ time will be disastrous for the hospitality sector and the British people.
“Business must be given time to adapt.
“These proposals will cut off future growth and expansion and deter investment in Britain’s high streets.
“It will lead to reduced levels of service for customers and business closures.”
British Retail Consortium director of business and regulation Tom Ironside said: “Although we welcome the reduction in the salary threshold, it is disappointing that the government has not understood the needs of the economy and the vital contribution of workers supporting the operation of warehouses, food factories and city centre stores.”
National Farmers Union President Minette Batters said: “We have said repeatedly that for farm businesses it is about having the full range of skills needed – from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets – if we are to continue to deliver high quality, affordable food for the public.
“Failure to provide an entry route for these jobs will severely impact the farming sector.”