The next intake of MPs representing Scotland must deliver an immigration system which 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 (Saturday 16 November), 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’s manifesto also makes the case for new funding for Scottish towns and high streets through the UK Towns Fund. Statistics compiled by the small business campaign group show that Scotland’s local towns have faced more than 400 local closures since the start of 2016.
Andrew McRae said: “Over the last few years, Scotland’s local towns have been hit with hundreds of local closures. And there’s no end in sight as many big name brands announce restructuring programmes.
“That’s why we need to see the next UK Government allocate a fair share of the £3.6bn Towns fund to Scotland. This generational investment would allow us to find new uses for empty properties and help us install low carbon infrastructure, like charging stations, in the centre of our local places.”
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.
Andrew McRae said: “Scotland’s patchy mobile coverage holds backs our businesses as well as making many local places less attractive to visitors and potential residents alike. For years, decision-makers have failed to address this issue – the next UK Government must not.
“The next Westminster administration must dramatically improve Scotland’s mobile coverage provision, closing the connectivity gap between Scotland and England.”