Nicola Sturgeon brands new post-Brexit immigration plans “an act of vandalism"
New post-Brexit immigration plans represent “an act of vandalism on Scotland's economy, communities, NHS and public services”, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
Under the plans, set out in a new white paper and based around ending free movement of people, low-skilled migrants from the EU would lose the automatic right to live and work in the UK.
The UK Government will launch a consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas, though ministers are considering allowing low-skilled workers to apply for short-term visas of up to a year.
The paper says: “Everyone will be required to obtain a permission if they want to come to the UK to work or study.”
It adds: “The UK’s future border and immigration system will have the same core objectives as now. From an immigration perspective, it must create strong borders, protect the vulnerable, enforce the rules and control the numbers and type of people coming to live and work here, in line with the continued commitment to reduce annual net migration to sustainable levels as set out in the Conservative Party manifesto, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have consistently seen over the last two decades.”
If the White Paper becomes law then low-skilled workers would be able to move between employers without sponsorship, but they would have no access to public funds, be prohibited from switching to another visa or reuniting with family, and would have no route to permanent settlement.
But while Theresa May said the changes, expected to be enacted in 2021, would allow the UK to “take back control of its borders”, the plans came under fire from the Scottish Government, with the First Minister accused Downing Street of “imposing disastrous policies on Scotland with no consultation”.
She said: "The UK Government's proposals take absolutely no account of Scotland's distinct needs. The White Paper itself suggests that it may result in an 85 per cent reduction in the number of EEA workers to Scotland - this will be catastrophic for communities and businesses across the whole of Scotland, particularly for key sectors such as tourism, hospitality and the care sector.
"Our modelling estimates that real GDP in Scotland will be around 6.2 per cent lower by 2040 than it would have been otherwise, as a result of Brexit-driven reduction in migration. This is equivalent to a fall of almost £6.8 billion a year in GDP by 2040 and a fall of £2 billion in Government revenue over the period. This is an unacceptable price for Scotland to pay.
"There is growing support from business and organisations across the country for a differentiated solution for Scotland. Our proposal is for a visa specific to Scotland, to allow people to come and work in Scotland, under the threshold of the £30,000 salary band. It is time for the UK Government to listen to the needs of Scotland and act accordingly."
Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland said: “The white paper on immigration highlights many of the benefits that immigration provides across the country. However we remain concerned that UK immigration policy post-Brexit will make it more difficult to attract talent to our nation.
“Mobility of talent is the lifeblood of Scotland’s universities. It has a positive impact on individuals, universities, research and communities. The removal of a cap on the number of highly skilled workers is welcome, but there needs to be a recognition that there is often not a correlation between high skills and high wages – for instance early-career researchers, technicians and creative professionals bring huge talent to Scotland but may fall below a £30k salary threshold."
He added: "We need to be serious about attracting talent to our nation. It’s hard to see how this can be achieved with today’s white paper.”