One in three businesses reliant upon tourism in Scotland are concerned that post-Brexit immigration reform could lead to their closure, research has found.
Nearly half of firms in the tourism sector north of the Border reported that staff from other EU nations made up more than 50 per cent of their workforce.
Currently any non-EU citizen working in the UK must earn at least £30,000 - but under current proposals this will be extended to EU citizens post-Brexit.
The extension of the threshold was proposed in last year’s Immigration White Paper. The salary threshold of £30,000 is significantly above the sector’s average salary of £23,000 for full time workers.
The Scottish Government has long argued that immigration powers should be devolved, arguing that Scotland faces unique demographic challenges in the long term.
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A survey of tourism and hospitality businesses, carried out by trade association UKinbound and Canterbury Christ Church University, found that 69 per cent said that the proposals would impact negatively on their ability to continue to operate, while 70 per cent of tourism businesses cited the limited domestic labour market as the key reason for the continued need for EU workers.
Joss Croft, chief Executive of UKinbound, said: “This timely research shows that the UK Government must listen to the tourism industry before committing to an immigration system that runs the risk of forcing businesses to close throughout the UK.
“Our tourism industry is vital to the UK economy and EU workers are crucial to ensuring that this success story continues. We have a skills shortage in the UK, caused not least by low levels of language skills and a lack of interest amongst UK nationals in the sector.”
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The UK Government’s wider proposals for a migration system would be disastrous for Scotland with workers from outside the UK forming a significant, and highly valued, part of the Scottish tourism sector’s workforce – 11.5 per cent in 2018 were non-UK EU nationals.
“Tourism has a reach across Scotland unlike any other industry and is vital to many communities – imposing further restrictions on this critical workforce could harm the sector and local economies, particularly in rural and island areas.
“While this survey focuses on the threat to tourism and hospitality, many other sectors integral to our economy, such as construction, financial services and agriculture, are likely to suffer too.
“It is clearer by the day that Scotland urgently needs a migration policy tailored to our distinct needs and for the devolution of powers to develop, deliver and maintain policies that meet the needs of Scotland’s businesses, communities and public services.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Brexit gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity of ending free movement and reshape our immigration system so that we decide who comes here based on what they have to offer, not where they come from.
“We are engaging with employers across the UK on the future system, including the tourism sector, and the Home Secretary has commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review a points-based system.”