Scottish Tory MPs shunned Sajid Javid leadership bid over immigration rules

Scottish Tories at Westminster broke with Ruth Davidson and shunned Sajid Javid’s campaign for leader over his failure to offer flexible immigration rules for Scottish business.

Ruth Davidson backed Sajid Javid. Picture: AFP/Getty
Ruth Davidson backed Sajid Javid. Picture: AFP/Getty

The Home Secretary failed to attract any endorsements from Scottish MPs in the early rounds of the contest despite being backed by their leader.

A Scottish Tory source said Mr Javid was passed over because a long-awaited white paper on post-Brexit immigration policy suggested that all new arrivals in the UK would need to earn at least £30,000 – above average salaries in key industries like agriculture and the care sector, particularly in Scotland, where pay is lower.

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On Monday, Mr Javid caved in to cross-party pressure and asked the migration advisory committee (MAC) to look again at its advice on a salary threshold, which critics said had been “cut and pasted” into the white paper.

Both Tory leadership campaigns have committed to a more flexible immigration policy, with Jeremy Hunt saying he would review the £30,000 limit. A Johnson campaign source said the frontrunner is also prepared to scrap the £30,000 threshold as a UK-wide measure.

“It’s one of the reasons none of the Scottish Tory MPs chose Sajid as their first choice in the leadership contest, even though he had Ruth’s endorsement,” The Scotsman was told. “We weren’t very impressed with the way he handled the white paper. The Home Office copy and pasted the MAC report into the white paper, despite the concerns we raised... it was gift-wrapped for our friends in the SNP.”

A UK government source confirmed that Whitehall expected the salary threshold to be abandoned, saying it “won’t stick”.

It comes as MPs prepare to debate the government’s “hostile environment policy”, which opposition parties claim is responsible for the Windrush scandal and similar cases of migrants being unfairly targeted.

The SNP will lead today’s debate, with immigration spokesman Stuart McDonald saying: “From the toxic ‘Go Home’ vans, children denied British citizenship because of outrageous fees, to couples being split apart, the Tories have simply failed families and vulnerable people.

“It is time for the UK government to draw a line under this dismal decade of toxic Tory immigration policies.”

Scottish Tory MPs were also critical of the government’s migration. Johnson supporter Colin Clark said the group had “lobbied the Home Office relentlessly” for changes.

“We need a migration policy that recognises sector needs,” Mr Clarke said. “I have never been comfortable with the MAC’s interpretation and would welcome changes.”

And in an article for The Scotsman, Stirling MP Stephen Kerr said the salary threshold in the white paper was “far too blunt an instrument” and would “cause real damage to the UK economy and must be changed”.

“Some of the most skilled people I know earn less than £30,000,” Mr Kerr writes. “With the average salary in Scotland being just under £23,000 these proposals would wrongly classify the majority of Scots as ‘unskilled’. That would be a travesty.”