Author: TOM MARTIN
NICOLA Sturgeon was told today business chiefs oppose her demands for the devolution of immigration powers. Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, spelled out firms’ fears on the issue at the CBI Scotland annual dinner.
It came ahead of the First Minister giving the keynote address at the Glasgow gathering.
Ms Fairbairn said Scotland was facing a “brain drain” but companies reject Ms Sturgeon’s call for a separate immigration regime north of the Border, warning of “doubled up systems and extra red tape”.
The SNP leader has repeatedly demanded for control of this area to bolster the economy despite the UK Government saying the move is unnecessary.
Her administration argues that Brexit could make it harder for businesses as well as the NHS, schools and other bodies to hire skilled migrants.
Ms Fairbairn spoke out after Home Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled a pilot scheme that will allow fruit and vegetable growers to recruit non-EU migrants as seasonal workers.
The visas for up to 2,500 workers a year will last six months under the initiative, which will run between spring 2019 and December 2020.
Farmers have complained that tons of soft fruit have been left to rot this year because there are too few migrant workers to pick them.
Ms Fairbairn said: “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.”
Earlier, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said there were “absolutely no plans” to devolve immigration and polling suggests the public opposes the SNP’s demand.
He said the need for seasonal workers for fruit picking applied across the UK and the pilot scheme recognised Scotland’s “specific needs”, given much of the industry is based north of the Border.
A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers “will continue to push for Scotland to have the powers to tailor a migration system that does just that – a position supported by other business leaders including the Institute of Directors Scotland, Federation of Small Businesses and others.”