The Scottish Conservatives have urged the next Prime Minister to change the UK Government’s proposals for post-Brexit immigration.
In a joint intervention by the Scottish Tory MP and MSP groups, the party called for a more flexible approach to be takenin order to recognise the needs of Scotland’s economy after the UK leaves the European Union.
A White Paper published by the UK Government last year set out plans to introduce a £30,000 minimum salary threshold, which would apply to skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.
However, concerns have been raised that the threshold is well below the average wage in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives said that immigration policy must recognise that sectors such as farming, fish processing, and hospitality and social care, heavily rely on foreign labour.
And Scottish Tory MP Kirstene Hair said that Theresa May’s successor at Number 10 must be wary of a “one-size fits all approach” on immigration.
“We have worked constructively with the Home Office and have engaged with business leaders and civic society across Scotland since the publication of the UK Government’s white paper on immigration,” said Ms Hair.
“The next Prime Minister must be aware of the difficulties that a one-size fits all approach could cause for Scotland’s economy.
“It is clear that there are serious concerns about the £30,000 salary threshold for skilled workers in particular.
“That must be re-visited and other measures explored to ensure that the system continues to work for all parts of the UK.”
The SNP has consistently called for immigration powers to be fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament. However, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said that a differential approach would not be the right one, calling for a “flexible” system which can be applied across the UK.
“The SNP will continue to demand the devolution of immigration,” said Mr Fraser.
“However, we do not believe in creating any barriers within the UK and we do not believe that a differential system would benefit Scotland’s economy.
“It would add unnecessary complications for businesses – many of whom work across the UK.
“But we do need to find solutions that will work for our key industries – farming, fish processing, hospitality and social care in particular.
“We need a flexible immigration system that works for every part of the UK. In Scotland, that means recognising the needs of different sectors of the economy.”
SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said: “We welcome the fact that the Tories are finally waking up to the fact their ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration will be disastrous for Scotland.
“But this is just more empty rhetoric, confirmed by the utter lack of clarity on what they actually want. They claim to want to do things differently, but in the same breath rule out doing anything of the sort.
“Ruth Davidson can try all she wants to distance herself from the next extreme Brexiteer PM, but Scotland deserves better than this.
“With this intervention, the Tories are single-handedly making the case for independence – which would stop Scotland being dictated to by governments we don’t vote for. ”