The latest labour market statistics painted, yet again, a rosy picture of the state of employment in Scotland and the UK more generally.
Whilst this is to be welcomed, drilling down into the data reveals a more worrying trend – one of dwindling interest from workers from elsewhere in the EU in coming to live and work in our country. The figures show there are today 86,000 fewer EU nationals in the UK than this time last year.
There is one clear explanation for this: Brexit, something the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland did not vote for. More than two years since the vote, the impact of the botched Brexit process could not be clearer.
First, unemployment may be low, but our economy and our currency are weak. The UK has gone from being the fastest-growing economy among advanced Western countries to the slowest.
As new analysis from the People’s Vote campaign has shown, thanks to Brexit, prices have increased in Scottish shops, with goods now more expensive, something that none of us remember the Brexit cheerleaders – including those with roots north of the border, such as the unlikely bedfellows of Michael Gove and George Galloway – having ever promised any of us.
Second, the approach taken by the Government in Westminster to the treatment of EU nationals has been shameful. The Prime Minister has consistently failed to guarantee the rights of the more than three million EU nationals living across the UK. Worse than that, many have been sent letters from the Home Office telling them they will be deported.
All of this has made Britain a less attractive place to live and work. So it is no surprise that EU nationals are leaving our country in such numbers, and that fewer people want to come here to live and to contribute. The impacts are already being felt in our NHS, our universities and across our industries, hitting tax receipts and hurting public services.
Scotland is an open country and a tolerant society and has thrived due to, not in spite of, immigration. Free movement both to and from the EU has allowed Scottish people to move elsewhere in our continent, without the need for a work permit, and has allowed nationals from other EU member states to come and work in Scotland and be an important part of the local workforce, representing just over four per cent of the entire Scottish population.
With the Government in Westminster determined to bring free movement to an end, Scotland will continue to become a less attractive destination for EU workers.
The best way to cut immigration is to crash the economy. And it is clear now that the UK Government is hell-bent on doing just this, as it pursues the hardest of hard Brexits.
Recent opinion polls show growing support for the idea of a People’s Vote at the end of the process to allow the British people to decide whether they think the deal which the Government ultimately presents should be accepted or not.
If you feel this way, you are welcome to join the hundreds of people attending the People’s Vote rally this Saturday in Festival Square in Edinburgh. The path we are currently on will make us less, not more open to talent from our closest neighbours, and it is vital that we make our voices heard on this issue.
Thomas Cole is head of policy at Open Britain, part of the People’s Vote campaign