SNP to push UK government to relax visa rules

Scottish External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson will press the UK’s immigration minister on labour shortages impacting Scotland at a meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Robertson will stress to Kevin Foster the need for urgent action to increase the workforce, including a 24-month “temporary worker route”.

The Scottish Government has also reconvened its population taskforce to discuss the issues faced by certain sectors.

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Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Robertson said: “There could not be a more urgent time to reconvene the population taskforce – we can see how the impact of Brexit and the inadequate UK immigration system is causing damage in our economy and society.

Angus RobertsonAngus Robertson
Angus Robertson

“I will be impressing on the UK Government’s minister for immigration today that time is of the essence, and the changes we request need to be put into place now.”

Mr Robertson said Brexit “has contributed to the problems”, which have caused food shortages in some supermarkets due to a lack of delivery drivers.

He added: “Any suggestion that such migration depressed wages is disappointing and inaccurate – in fact analysis of the impact of European migration on the UK labour market by the UK Government’s own migration advisory committee found that immigration was not a major factor in wage growth.

“Freedom of movement, in fact, was a benefit for our economy and our society – and its removal has contributed to the issues that now need an urgent response, not sudden UK Government policy switches used as temporary sticking plasters.

“Scotland has its own distinct immigration requirements, which are different from the rest of the UK, as all of our future population growth is projected to come from inward migration.

“That is just one reason the UK Government’s hard Brexit will be so damaging to Scotland, and why measures such as the opening of a 24-month temporary worker route should be implemented immediately.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are closely monitoring labour supply and working with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points. Similar challenges are being faced by other countries around the world.

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“We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad. Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.

“The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options wage increases and investment.”