The Tory government’s post-Brexit immigration plans will not work “for any part of the UK” with Scotland likely to be among the worst hit, the head of the country’s top business body has warned.
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general Carolyn Fairbairn will call for the plans, including a £30,000 salary floor for migrants, to be ditched, with a warning that Scotland’s economic growth could suffer.
The bad news is there is a unanimous view and it’s that the UK Government immigration proposals don’t work for any part of the UKCAROLYN FAIRBAIRN I
Ms Fairbairn will address the country’s top business figures at a CBI lunch in Glasgow later today. Scotland is reliant on immigration to keep the population growing and maintain the workforce of the future, but there are fears that a hardline crackdown is looming after Brexit.
But the new approach must acknowledge Scotland’s demographic challenge, Ms Fairbairn is expected to say.
“In around 20 years’ time, just one third of the Scottish population will be of working age,” she will say.
“This will have profound implications for Scotland, its tax base and public services.
“Three quarters of Scottish businesses expect to hire high-skilled workers in coming years, yet nearly two thirds fear Scotland won’t have the people to fill them.
“From hospitals to housebuilders, R&D to renewables – and this is why the UK government’s post-Brexit immigration proposals are troubling.
“The idea that skilled workers coming to Scotland may have to earn over £30,000 – well, the Scottish median salary is less than £24,000.
“Last year, I said that rather than debating the devolution of immigration, our focus should be on a single system that receives a unanimous welcome from all parts of the UK. The bad news is there is a unanimous view and it’s that the UK government immigration proposals don’t work for any part of the UK.”
Talks are ongoing with the Home Office about changes being proposed. The £30,000 salary threshold should be ditched along with the proposed 12-month temporary visa, which risks harming “integration and productivity”.
Ms Fairbarin will add: “We need to make the immigration system affordable and accessible, particularly for our SMEs.
“Get this right and we can build a system that works.
“But get it wrong and – let’s be frank – calls for Scottish flexibility on immigration will only increase.”
The business chief will also step up the pressure on the UK government and Labour to reach a deal on Brexit.
“Let me be crystal clear,” she will say. “Scottish firms, and firms across the UK, want a deal.
“But for all the hope and promise that politicians will stand firm against no deal, whether by accident or design, it could still happen.
“So we must continue to do everything possible to plan for it, but also everything possible to avoid it.
“Firms desperately need a timetable for these next few months. They need to have some idea of process, of timing, to enable them to plan, invest and prepare.”
With a deal, public demand for a second referendum will only intensify, Ms Fairbairn will stress, adding: “After three years firms still remain in the dark, taking decisions on investment, staff and pay while blindfolded by Brexit.
“It’s not good enough. We must move on.”