Economy could suffer under immigration plans say MSPs

NO F05 Kate Forbes
Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes.

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A proposed new points-based immigration system could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, risking labour shortages in key sectors, an independent expert group has warned.

New research by the Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population shows that 55.9 per cent of migrants who want to work in the Highlands (68.7 per cent in the Western Isles) would be ineligible under UK Government proposals – shutting the door on the ability to recruit talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere.

The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee has also warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and the ability to fund the NHS.

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: ‘There is nothing more critical to the future economy of the Highlands than inward migration. We know that so many businesses have relied on citizens from other countries who choose to contribute to the Highland economy.

‘Furthermore, the Covid-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the UK’s reliance on key workers who have come to Scotland from all over the world. This pandemic has shown beyond doubt that people working in the roles which the Tories describe as ‘lower-skilled’ are absolutely vital to our communities.

‘Carers, nurseries and support workers have held the NHS and Care Homes up during the last few weeks.

‘This could hammer public services like the NHS – as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers.

The new research also showed that the islands would be affected worse than any other local authority area in the country.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan added: ‘The islands are facing a demographic crisis. Sustained inward migration is a critical necessity here but, despite the clear evidence, the Tories seem utterly determined to back the plans which will be immeasurably damaging to the Western Isles and Scotland as a whole.

‘We need the power to attract and retain the workers we need to fund our public services, and allow our economy to flourish.’

According to previous analysis by the Expert Advisory Group, 53 per cent of roles filled by employees in Scotland earn less than £25,000, including up to 90 per cent of jobs in the care sector.