The UK's proposed new immigration system could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, risking labour shortages in key sectors, an independent expert group has warned.
New research undertaken by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Migration and Population shows that 54.4% - more than half - of jobs in the Scottish Borders would be ineligible to be filled by a migrant from outside the UK under the UK Government’s proposals - shutting the door on our ability to overcome hard-to-fill vacancies through recruiting talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere who we know have helped sustain our key services, as well as culturally enriching our communities.
According to previous analysis by the Expert Advisory Group, 53% of roles filled by employees across Scotland as a whole attract an annual salary of less than £25,600, including up to 90% of jobs in the care sector, where an acute shortages of job candidates has presented real difficulties in delivering services in recent times. This figure is even higher in the Borders, with 54.4% of all jobs here falling below the salary threshold.
Holyrood’s Finance Committee has also warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS.
SNP Regional MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, said:
“The COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the UK’s reliance on key workers who have come to the UK and Scotland from all over the world. Across the UK, many have lost their lives while supporting and protecting people through the Coronavirus pandemic and we owe all such workers our sincere gratitude and respect.
“This pandemic has shown beyond doubt that people working in the roles which the Tories describe as ‘lower-skilled’ are absolutely vital to our communities. You would think that this would have focused the minds of those Conservative politicians who have posted selfies of themselves applauding the work of Scotland’s NHS workers, carers and other key workers. However, regrettably they seem to be wearing blue blinkers on the issue of immigration.
“Without migration from elsewhere in the UK and from overseas, the Borders could face a demographic crisis that could hammer funding for public services like the NHS – as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers. For areas like the Scottish Borders this risk is even more stark. The availability of people of working age not only affects the tax base, but also the ability to attract staff for our public services, and a reduced availability of staff also has a significant impact on whether or not local businesses can grow and stay competitive in a challenging global market, and reduces the attractiveness of our area for inward investors, too.
“But despite the clear evidence of the importance of being able to access workers from outside the UK, the Tories seem to be unquestioning in backing Mr Johnson’s aggressive immigration plans that are incredibly short-sighted, founded in xenophobia and will be immeasurably damaging to the economies of the Scottish Borders and Scotland, as well as key public and private service employers.
“Scotland needs the power to attract and retain the workers we need to maintain our public services, grow local businesses and to allow our economy to flourish. Now is not the time to close the door when, more than ever, we should be offering a warm welcome to those who pay us the ultimate compliment in choosing to make Scotland their homeand working in our key services.”
Link to the report of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Migration and Population is here: