Author- Gavin Musgrove
The next intake of MPs representing Scotland must deliver an immigration system that works for local economies and communities north of the border, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
As the organisation launches its UK manifesto, FSB’s Scotland policy chair Andrew McRae said: “Our next batch of MPs will likely need to make a number of important choices about the structure of a UK future immigration system.
“At every turn, we’re urging them to push for a regime that recognises Scotland’s demographic challenges and is user-friendly and affordable for smaller business.”
Research published by the FSB and the University of Strathclyde earlier this year showed that immigrant entrepreneurs make a £13 billion annual contribution to Scotland’s economy and support more than 107,000 jobs.
Further, according to FSB research, one in four small employers in Scotland (26%) have at least one employee from an EU country, rising to about two in five (41%) in the Highlands. This compares to about one in five (21%) across the UK.
FSB Highlands & Islands Area Leader and hotel operator Tanja Lister, said, “For businesses like mine, operating in the most sparsely populated region of the UK, the ability to attract the skilled staff that we need, and our customers demand, is of the utmost importance.
“There simply aren’t enough local job seekers and we have to recruit from elsewhere. We desperately need an immigration system that works for all parts of the UK, not just some.”
The FSB’s manifesto also urges the next UK Government to close the mobile coverage gap between Scotland and England.
In late October, UK Ministers announced a new deal with the mobile operators that FSB says must deliver.
Ms Lister said: “Scotland’s patchy mobile coverage is bad news for businesses, their staff, communities and, in a tourism-dependent region like ours, visitors.
“It is hard for businesses to attract and retain staff from elsewhere if they can’t communicate with their friends and families, and visitors will not get maximum enjoyment from their stays if they can’t search the internet and make phone calls as they travel.