Sturgeon: I'll back firms who refuse to list foreign workers

Scottish firms which ignore new UK rules on revealing how many foreign workers they hire have been told they will have the backing of Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon says firms shouldn't have to reveal foreign worker levelsNicola Sturgeon says firms shouldn't have to reveal foreign worker levels
Nicola Sturgeon says firms shouldn't have to reveal foreign worker levels

The First Minister says she will stand "full square behind" any Scots company which snubs the new rules unveiled by Home Secretary Amber Rudd this week amid claims of racism.

The SNP leader also branded the prospect of a "hard Brexit" unacceptable as a new report today indicated it would mean an £8 billion hit for Scotland's economy and the loss of 80,000 jobs.

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Ms Rudd was forced to defend plans to make firms do more to employ British people, saying "don't call me a racist" for talking about immigration. She later appeared to row back on the proposal by saying that it wasn't something the Tories were definitely going to introduce. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also announced plans at this week's Tory conference to drive down the amount of foreign doctors in UK hospitals by training more home-grown medics.

The SNP leader went on the attack during First Minister Questions at Holyrood today, telling her Conservative opposite number Ruth Davidson that she should have been "ashamed" of being at the conference.

Ms Sturgeon said: "What I found particularly offensive was the idea that companies would be named and shamed for the foreign workers they employ as if there was something shameful about employing workers from other countries. It is absolutely disgraceful."

She added: "Well, I think it's about time the Tories stood up and said this, that it's definitely something they will not ever do because it would be downright disgraceful and disgusting, and this government would have absolutely nothing to do with it."

Ms Rudd's proposals would see firms being forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce is non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals.

The Home Secretary believes firms are "getting away" with not training enough British workers and the existing resident labour test - which requires firms to advertise vacancies in the UK for 28 days before looking outside the EU - should be toughened up.

Green MSP Ross Greer branded the plans "sinister and disgusting" and asked if the Scottish Government would support businesses north of the border who refuse to comply with them.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I would absolutely stand four-square beside any company that refused to comply with any request to publish details of foreign workers.

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In her speech to the Tory conference, Ms Davidson welcomed immigrants who have come to the UK and insisted the party must remain ''outward-looking''.

She told MSPs today: "My position is to say that people from the EU and elsewhere are welcome here and that this is their home, and my position is to retain the closest possible trading relationship with our European friends and neighbours while expanding trade abroad.

"My position is also to face up to the realities ahead of us, to mitigate risks and to take advantage of opportunities."

But she demanded to know if the Scottish Government would now "put the lion's share of its efforts into examining practical solutions or simply complaining about the result".

A new report from the Fraser of Allander think-tank yesterday warned Scotland's ecnomy could face an £8 billion meltdown with the loss of 80,000 jobs if there is a so-called "hard Brexit", which would see the UK lose its access to the European free trade zone.

Ms Sturgeon said this seems to be the approach favoured by UK ministers.

"The details that we have suggest that we are heading down the road of a hard Brexit, which—as today’s Fraser of Allander institute report said—will cost people in Scotland in lost wages and lost jobs. That is completely and utterly unacceptable," she said.

The First Minister said again that her government "will do everything in its power to protect Scotland's interests and to mitigate the serious risk" posed by the leaving the European Union.

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But she added: "People who have chosen to make their homes here are welcome here, they make a contribution, we want them to stay and continue making that contribution".

"Unfortunately the difference between Ruth Davidson and I is this: She wants control over immigration to stay in the hands of the xenophobes, I want it to come into the hands of this parliament so we can put these sentiments into practice."