Immigration Rural Areas

The New Immigration System Ignores the Needs of Rural Areas

Last Wednesday (19th of February), the government put forward their proposals for a new immigration system.

In the words of a Home Office spokesperson, the plans are aimed at bringing in the ‘brightest and best’ from around the globe- a reference to the Conservatives’ intention to attract ‘high-skilled workers’ to the UK whilst simultaneously reducing net migration.

Many of the measures proposed to achieve these goals find their origins in last month’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report, such as the reduction of the minimum salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600. With free movement set to end once the transition period ends, it is hoped that this will ameliorate any harmful impact on the labour market. But for many sectors within the UK economy, the new system will prove harmful rather than beneficial.

Points will be awarded on the basis of desired characteristics. For example, if a visa applicant holds a PhD in one of the STEM subjects, they will receive 20 points. A total of 70 points must be accrued in order to be successful- possessing a job offer at an appropriate skill level would also be worth 20 points.

The attributes that the government deem valuable evidence their desire to end what they describe as a reliance on ‘cheap labour from Europe’. With an intense focus on applicants being both highly-skilled and high-earning, the system is designed to set a new standard of the type of migrant able to enter the UK.

Rural areas need access to migrant workers in order to meet recruitment challenges. [Image: Third Force News]

However, the proposals demonstrate a startling lack of awareness of the diverse range of workers that the UK economy needs in order to prosper. Lower-skilled staff are an integral, indispensable part of the workforce in a number of industries, such as social care and hospitality. Preventing employers from accessing this type of worker suggests that the government are knowingly allowing these industries to struggle.

However, the proposals demonstrate a startling lack of awareness of the diverse range of workers that the UK economy needs in order to prosper.

In addition, the proposals take a one-size-fits-all approach that does not give any consideration to differing economic needs in different regions of the UK. The implications of this will be profound. In Scotland, migration is needed not only for population growth, but to meet employment challenges in remote areas.

Preventing employers from accessing this type of worker suggests that the government are knowingly allowing these industries to struggle.

The MAC advised the government to adopt a rural pilot scheme which would allow migrants to work in areas which face more complex challenges in the ‘recruitment and retention’ of workers. It was thought that this could take the form of a separate pilot visa with a lower salary threshold- a move that would encourage migration into the parts of the country that most require it.

However, when Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled the immigration proposals last week, there was no mention of the scheme whatsoever, prompting fears that it has been discarded. The Scottish Government has expressed deep concerns that the idea has not been mentioned since it was first recommended in the MAC’s report.

The deafening silence regarding the rural pilot scheme was challenged by Ben Macpherson [Image: The National]

The SNP now view it as absolutely essential that Westminster give serious consideration to their proposals for a Scottish Visa.

In the words of Migration Minister Ben Macpherson:

‘The proposals would be catastrophic for rural areas, which are particularly dependent on migration to sustain local communities and public services, so it is deeply worrying that the UK Government does not appear to mention anywhere in these latest proposals their own prior commitment to running rural migration pilots.

The Scottish Government put forward a clear, workable proposal for devolving immigration powers and introducing a Scottish visa, which would allow Scotland to attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for all our communities and economy to flourish.

The UK Government must now seriously engage with these proposals, which have widespread support across Scotland.’

The Home Secretary responded in a terse and uncompromising manner, stating that if businesses predict problems, they should automate their processes or find different ways of working. It appears that the tension between the SNP and Westminster is set to roll on.

[Header Image: Third Force News]

Written by
Cameron Boyle
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