Businesses fear giving Scotland control over immigration in the wake of Brexit would lead to more red tape for firms to deal with, the head of the CBI has said.
Director-general Carolyn Fairbairn wants ministers to create a new system that is “right for the whole of the UK” after the country quits the European Union.
By doing this, she argued, there is “less need for variation” across the UK.
Scottish Government ministers have repeatedly called for powers over immigration to be handed to Holyrood, arguing the country’s ageing population and distinct workforce needs make it necessary for them to take a different approach from that of the UK.
In a speech to the CBI Scotland annual dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow on Thursday, Ms Fairbairn – who met Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday – conceded Scotland faces a “potent mix of problems”.
While she said the country has a “brilliant and talented workforce”, this is shrinking, with the demographics “not in Scotland’s favour”.
She said Scotland has “a potent mix of problems” and added: “The skills shortages are biting. Not in the future, not soon. Right now.”
The CBI wants to see a new immigration system established that will allow “business to attract the people they need” and that will be “open but controlled too”.
She said: “We are clear it must work for Scotland.
“Some have asked – do we need a devolved solution for Scotland? It’s a fair question.
“But the businesses I’ve spoken to say ‘not right now’. Let’s get it right for the whole UK.
“The better the outcome we get, the less need for variation across the UK.
“And the less companies need worry about doubled up systems and extra red tape.”
Ms Fairbairn also used her speech to warn a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for both Scotland and the UK.
She said: “No deal is really just not an option and it should be off the table on both sides of the Channel.”
She added: “No deal is just not an option. Not for the UK, not for Scotland, and not for the EU.
“And there’s a very short window to achieve a deal.
“So we will be continuing to make the case for a sensible and pragmatic way forward.”