Today the UK Government has published its White Paper on immigration. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland has demanded an urgent rethink, warning that these proposals will have a disproportionate impact on firms north of the border.
The small business campaign group is calling on UK Ministers to introduce a more flexible system that accommodates the skills needs of Scottish firms and the demographic demands of Scottish communities. FSB has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland outlining their concerns about the White Paper proposals.
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland Policy Chair, said: “The UK Government’s obstinate approach to immigration is a clear threat to many of Scotland’s businesses and local communities. These proposals will make it nigh impossible for the vast majority of Scottish firms to access any non-UK labour and the skills they need to grow and sustain their operations.”
FSB research has found that small businesses in Scotland are more reliant on labour and skills from the EU and more pessimistic about meeting their recruitment needs post-Brexit, compared to the UK average.
The post-Brexit immigration system will require small businesses who employ EU workers in future to, for the first time, use the UK’s points-based system. According to FSB survey work, 95 per cent of smaller employers have never made use of this element of the immigration system.
Andrew McRae said: “Smaller Scottish businesses hire EU citizens to work across a wide range of occupations – from carers to retail workers, from bar staff to engineers. Predominantly they do so by advertising a post and taking on the best person for a job, who almost always is already living in the country.
“Requiring employers to grapple with what is currently a clunky and costly immigration system to hire international talent will have significant implications for the small business community in Scotland. The risk is that this makes small business owners into de-facto immigration officers.
“The proposed system also puts a lot of faith on Whitehall officials to predict the skills needs of a Dundonian manufacturer or a Highland hotelier years in advance. This reliance on state central planning is not the hallmark of a dynamic, responsive trading environment.”
The White Paper proposes a single immigration system for the UK with limited reference to the specific needs of the Scottish economy.
Andrew McRae said: “Over the next year, we need to see the UK Government listen to what Scottish businesses are telling them – that these proposals don’t suit our needs, nor the needs of our local communities, nor those of the Scottish economy.”