The UK Tory government’s controversial points-based immigration risks devastating local businesses and causing long-term harm to public services in the Western Isles, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.
Unveiled earlier this week, Boris Johnson’s plan to block most European workers from entering the UK has come under fire from employers and industry leaders.
Chief Executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, Jimmy Buchan, has said, “We need ministers to allow scope for recruitment of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour as they are all vital to the viability of the sector."
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation added, “We are concerned that these proposals as drafted could hinder the production and processing of Scottish salmon.”
Chief Executive of Scottish Care, Donald Macaskill said the health and social care sector is faced with a “triple whammy”.
"We are closing the door on people coming to live and work and contribute to the economy, we are losing staff because of the toxic rhetoric around immigration coming from certain political voices south of the Border, and we are unable to build the social care economy and innovate in the way we have the potential to because of the economic impacts of these political decisions.
"We have to encourage people to stay. We simply are a country that needs migrants. We need a distinctive solution.”
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: “The announcement of the UK government’s plans for a new points-based immigration system appears now to be the biggest threat to Scotland’s tourism industry. These plans totally disregard the skill set and importance of those who work in the sector and go against what is needed in Scotland as a whole.
"Scotland’s situation is unique; 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. The impact of the UK Government’s new immigration plans will have a profound impact across local economies, particularly in rural areas.”
A cross-party report by Holyrood’s Finance Committee previously warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS, if Scotland does not have powers to grow our population.
Now, the MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has renewed calls for immigration powers to be handed to Holyrood – with the SNP’s proposals for a Scottish Visa gaining the backing of a wide range of expert organisations.
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “These immigration plans could be disastrous for the islands.
“Important sectors of our economy such as seafood and tourism are reliant on migrant workers from Europe. We already have the preposterous situation – repeated raised in Westminster by Angus MacNeil MP – of fishing vessels on the west coast tied up due to a lack of crew. These plans will make a bad situation worse.
“Scotland faces demographic challenges as our population gets older. Nowhere are those challenges more stark than in the Western Isles, where our working age population is set to decrease by 17% over the next decade.
“We need the power to attract and retain the workers we need to staff our public services and businesses, and support our economy. It’s now absolutely vital that the political parties and industry leaders come together to back the SNP’s plans for a tailored migration system which works for Scotland and the islands.”
Earlier Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “The UK Government’s hostile environment continues to cause misery and this latest policy announcement on post-Brexit visas could have devastating consequences for our economy.
“We already know how the UK Government’s policy of not allowing Work Visas for non-EEA workers is damaging to the West Coast fishing industry – this policy announcement will be harmful to many sectors such as hospitality, social care and agriculture.”