CBI calls for separate immigration system for Scotland

The Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has insisted that the UK’s future immigration system must address Scotland’s demographic challenge.

Carolyn Fairbairn says that current plans for the UK’s new immigration system, which includes a minimum £30,000 salary threshold for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas after Brexit, would cause particular problems for Scotland.

“In around 20 years’ time, just one third of the Scottish population will be of working age, Fairbairn explained. “This will have profound implications for Scotland, its tax base and public services.

“The idea is that skilled workers coming to Scotland may have to earn over £30,000… well, the Scottish median salary is less than £24,000. Last year, I said that rather than debating the devolution of immigration our focus should be on a single system that receives a unanimous welcome from all parts of the UK.

“The bad news is there is a unanimous view, and it’s that the UK Government immigration proposals don’t work for any part of the UK.”

Ms Fairbairn met with Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last Thursday ahead of the employers’ organisation’s annual lunch in Edinburgh, and has been working with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) on plans to tackle automation and the future of work.

The two organisations have written to the Scottish government with proposals that they hope could increase both the number and quality of jobs.

“We need a route for overseas workers which recognises the importance of all skills levels to our economy. The proposed 12-month temporary visa idea risks harming integration and productivity,” Fairbairn continued.

“We need to make the immigration system affordable and accessible – particularly for our SMEs. Get this right, and we can build a system that works.

“But get it wrong and – let’s be frank –calls for Scottish flexibility on immigration will only increase.”

Article published 13th May 2019