Businesses throughout the Outer Hebrides and beyond are being urged to stand up against the Westminster Government's new immigration curbs.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says many Islanders own small businesses that rely to a greater or lesser extent on EU workers, and they will be very worried.

"We know this because research for FSB Scotland’s new report on migration – A World of Talent: building an immigration system that works for small businesses in Scotland – found that the further north one travels and the more remote one gets, the more reliant businesses are on EU workers, and this reliance is growing.

"In fact today, 40% of Scottish firms have at least one person from the EU on the books, as against 26% for the UK as a whole. Based on past research the Highlands & Islands figure is likely to be at least 55%.

"The growth in EU worker numbers is not based on low wages, as some like to suggest. It happens because businesses really do have no choice. What with low unemployment, a declining and ageing population, and a variety of well-known remoteness barriers, Highlands & Islands employers seeking staff with the skills and approach to work that they require are forced to cast their nets ever wider.

"Clearly, the UK is a very diverse country with very differing needs, but we now have a new UK migration policy based on a one-size-fits-all approach.

"For a whole variety of reasons national one-size policies don’t work in the Highlands & Islands, and the consequence for this region if the new policy is implemented will be dire.

"Indeed, our research found that one fifth of small Scottish businesses could close or radically change their business models if recruiting EU workers became much harder; the figure for this region would be higher still," the FSB says.

"FSB Scotland’s report identifies four steps that the UK Government can adopt to make the new system meet the needs of small Scottish businesses.

"First, separate visas should be piloted for remote parts of Scotland and the UK, making it easier for migrant workers to come here; second, migrants wishing to come to Scotland should be awarded more points than those wanting to go work in less needy areas; third, the Home Office should design, develop and enforce a tailored approach to migration in partnership with the Scottish Government; and fourth, the £50,000 in investment funds required by the Home Office to set up a business in the UK should be dramatically reduced to allow Scotland to attract future overseas entrepreneurs.

"If you are one of the countless Highlands & Islands businesses that could be adversely affected by the UK Government’s new policy, tell your MP what you think now," says the FSB.