Author: Alistair Grant
HIGHLY skilled migrants will be offered a ‘Golden Hello’ of tax breaks in a bid to lure them to work in Scotland under future economic plans being considered by the SNP.
The party’s long-awaited Growth Commission report, which will be published this morning and focuses on delivering a blueprint for independence, will set out a range of measures which will pitch Scotland in direct contrast to the UK Government’s “hostile approach to migration”.
But the Scottish Conservatives warned the country will suffer if the SNP drags it “back down the rabbit hole” of another independence debate.
The party’s shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser insisted it was time for the SNP to “stop building castles in the sky, and to get on with the job of building a stronger Scotland now”.
He said: “It appears the SNP is finally admitting that high taxes do indeed put people off from coming to Scotland. In that case, why has it imposed the highest taxes on us right now?
“Of course we want to attract the best and brightest to come and live and work in Scotland. But you don’t do that with high taxes and you don’t do it by trying to tear up the UK.
“You do it by growing Scotland’s economy – something the SNP government is failing to do, largely because it is spending so much of its time obsessing about independence.”
The Growth Commission report, which outlines proposals for the future success of Scotland both now and in the event of independence, will set out a “Come to Scotland” package to bring extra investment and drive population growth.
This would be geared towards attracting investors, entrepreneurs, highly-skilled workers and students, in a bid to build on the £1.3 billion already brought in by those who have moved to Scotland from overseas. Policies will also focus on attracting people from the rest of the UK.
Proposals include exploring “transition relief” for highly skilled migrant workers, a move which would offset costs associated with moving to Scotland against income tax.
Meanwhile, a new visa system would be “benchmarked on the most efficient and easy to use in the world” – suggesting the report will recommend so-called golden visas, which give people the right to live in Scotland if they invest a certain amount in the economy.
READ MORE: Tom Gordon: Will the SNP’s Growth Commission be worth the wait?
The document will also advocate reducing costs, lowering investment thresholds and increasing support for entrepreneurs, while setting out an aim to retain an additional 5,000 international graduates each year to deliver an economic gain of £1.5 billion per year within a decade.
It will argue demographic trends mean the need to boost population is more pressing for Scotland than for the rest of the UK – something which could be exacerbated by Brexit.
Reports emerged last weekend that the report will recommend a gradual transition to a new currency after independence, which would initially be pegged to sterling.
It is understood it will assume the first year of independence is 2021/22 for the purposes of its calculations.
It comes as opposition parties used yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions to accuse the SNP of putting independence before the NHS and education.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said more than 54,000 people waited longer than the health service’s 12-week treatment-time guarantee last year.
He insisted the launch of the new independence blueprint would “exasperate the millions of people right across Scotland who just want the First Minister focused on public services like out national health service”.
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed there are fewer school pupils getting Highers in key STEM (science, technology, education and maths) subjects now than there were in 2014 – the year Scots voted against independence.
She added: “It is a mystery to me how spending months restarting the debate about independence is going to do anything to improve that.”
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Former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, who is spearheading the party’s new Growth Commission, said there was an opportunity for Scotland “to strike a completely different tone on a vitally important area of economic policy – how we attract talent to our country”.
He added: “It is in Scotland’s best interests to grow our population sustainably, but we need the right powers and policies in place to allow that to happen.
“There is a real opportunity to build consensus across the political divide and Scottish society more widely in support of policies that actively support migration into Scotland.”