‘Impossible to overstate how devastating’ new UK immigration policy is for Scotland – Sturgeon

UK Government plans to end freedom of movement and introduce a new points-based immigration system will be “devastating” for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.

The First Minister said the changes, outlined by Home Secretary Priti Patel, would make attracting people to Scotland “so much harder”.

She called again for powers over migration to be devolved to Scotland – with her plea for a separate Scottish visa finding some support among business leaders.

Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall said: “The announcement of the UK Government’s plans for a new points-based immigration system appears now be the biggest threat to Scotland’s tourism industry.”

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, claimed UK ministers were “in cloud cuckoo land”, while the council body Cosla said the changes being proposed would have “critical implications for Scottish local government and Scotland in general”.

Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers said: “This now makes the debate over a specific Scottish visa much more important.”

The comments came after the UK Government announced it will stop providing visas to low-skilled migrant workers in a bid to cut their numbers, instead outlining plans for a new points-based system aimed at attracting the higher skilled.

Ms Sturgeon (pictured) tweeted: “It is impossible to overstate how devastating this UK gov policy will be for Scotland’s economy.

“Our demographics mean we need to keep attracting people here – this makes it so much harder. Getting power over migration in @ScotParl is now a necessity for our future prosperity.”

Workers will only be able to come to the UK if they are sponsored by an employer and meet the points-based criteria, including earning at least £25,600 in skilled professions, as part of changes to come into force next year.

Scotland Office minster Douglas Ross said: “The new system announced today will make sure our economy attracts and retains the best talent from around the world, welcoming people to Scotland and the whole UK based on how they can help grow our country.”

He added: “Our points-based immigration system will deliver what businesses in Scotland have asked for and work in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Announcing the policy during a visit to Imperial College in west London, Ms Patel told the PA news agency: “It is right that people should speak English before they come to our country, that they should have a sponsored route, whether it’s through employment or a sponsored route through an academic institution.”

But Mr Macaskilll criticised the “short-sighted, non-inclusive immigration policy” being put forward by ministers.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “They talk about the low-skilled economy. What is low-skilled about a worker being with somebody at the end of their life or somebody giving comfort with an individual with dementia?

“This immigration proposal, far from enhancing the economic well-being of our country, will put a lot of the care sector, a lot of hospitality and other sectors in Scotland at considerable risk.”

Mr Crothall said: “We have very fragile areas in our economy and it is more important than ever that we’re able to attract and retain people, particularly in the Highlands and islands and other rural areas.

“We need a differentiated system that is responsive to the specific needs of our tourism industry, our demography and our wider economy and sectors.”

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said some parts of the proposals – such as the reduced minimum salary threshold – would be welcomed by business.

But she added: “Nevertheless, the proposed new system will pose real challenges for businesses in Scotland.

“Key sectors, in particular our vital hospitality, tourism, agriculture and care industries, will be concerned about how they can recruit people across all levels of skill they need, not only to grow but to fulfil existing commitments.”

Cosla community well-being spokeswoman Kelly Parry said: “Overall, the aim of the proposed new system is to reduce migration.

“Cosla and Scottish local government have been clear a reduction of in-migration to Scotland will adversely impact on our economy, our workforce and our ageing population.”

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The points based immigration system will open a door to more skilled staff for our universities and high-tech sectors, and the quadrupling of the Seasonal Workers Scheme will prove vital for our agriculture sector.”

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