Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Anahita Hossein-Pour
19 February 2020
UK Government vows to end reliance on 'cheap' foreign labour

Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

UK Government vows to end reliance on 'cheap' foreign labour

Home Secretary Priti Patel has unveiled the UK Government’s new points-based immigration system with a promise to end a reliance on “cheap, low-skilled labour” coming to the UK.

The reforms - dubbed an "Australian-style" system - are set to come into force in January 2021, and will aim to end visas for low-skilled workers and reduce the overall number of migrants.

Under the plans, the government is expecting 70% of the EU’s current workforce to fail to meet its criteria for skilled worker routes to the UK.

The system will award points to applicants based on specific skills, qualifications, salaries, English speaking ability and professions, and will implement recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee to lower the salary threshold to £25,600 from the existing £30,000 minimum limit.

Patel said: “Today is a historic moment for the whole country. 

“We’re ending free movement, taking back control of our borders and delivering on the people’s priorities by introducing a new UK points-based immigration system, which will bring overall migration numbers down.

“We will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boosting the economy and our communities, and unleash this country’s full potential.”

The scheme to attract the “best and brightest” from across the globe will also expand the skills criteria to allow migrants with A-Levels or equivalent - rather than the current limit of degree education - to live and work in the country.

The government’s plan also contains the expected Global Talent scheme which will grant visas to “highly-skilled” scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer.

Other measures include the increased rollout of the Seasonal Workers Pilot, which will hike 2,500 to 10,000 places in time for the 2020 harvest, in line with demands from the agricultural sector.

Student visas will also be subject to the points-based system, and EU citizens along with other non-visa nationals will be able to travel to the UK for six months without further permissions needed.

But Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “This isn’t an ‘Australian points-based system’, which is a meaningless government soundbite. It’s a salary threshold system, which will need to have so many exemptions, for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector, that it will be meaningless.   

“Just as important is what rights will be attached to these visas.  If families are split up because spouses and children are denied entry, this will be terrible for them and will deter many of the workers we need.  If they are all short-term visas only the most desperate workers will come, and will have the effect of creating a two-tier workforce. 

“Ultimately, it will also be very difficult to attract the workers we need at all skill levels while the Tories’ hostile environment is in place. It needs to go. Labour will be pressing hard on all these points as the legislation proceeds.”

The Liberal Democrats also hit out at the plan, with the party's home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine warning: “Too many businesses are already struggling to hire the workers they need. Now the Tories want to stop them recruiting all but the highest paid employees from abroad.

Jardine added: “The Conservative Government's immigration proposals are based on xenophobia, not the social and economic needs of our country. Ten months is nowhere near enough time for either employers or the Home Office to get ready for these new rules, creating chaos and confusion."

SNP shadow immigration minister Stuart McDonald said the plans were "further evidence that this so-called union of equals is not working for Scotland".

“The total absence of any reference to Scotland, to remote areas, or the self-employed is extraordinary. And while the paper is almost silent on families, we know that many thousands more couples will be split apart and parents separated from their kids, by extending the scope of the harsh family visa rules," he said.
“The climb down on the salary threshold is nothing more than a predictable gimmick and goes nowhere near far enough to address Scotland’s needs - it should be scrapped altogether.
“The UK government’s isolationist immigration system fails to address Scotland’s economic, demographic and social needs. Coupled with the immigration minister’s appallingly dismissive attitude to the introduction of additional visa options for Scotland, this is further evidence that this so-called union of equals is not working for Scotland."

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe



Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top