Skip To The Main Content

Post-Brexit immigration system must address Scotland’s needs

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland has broadly welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s report, “Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper”.

The report follows a series of recent announcements from the UK Government about the immigration system – notably that businesses will have less than a year to prepare for a new points-based system.

FSB Scotland has previously highlighted the importance of workers from the EU to the success of small businesses, with one in four employers relying on staff from the EU.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “The immigration system is about to undergo its most dramatic transformation in decades at breakneck speed – with the new system due to be up and running in a little over eleven months’ time. This self-imposed timescale should not preclude the possibility of a UK system working for the needs of Scotland’s small business community.

“The new paper from the Scottish Government is a timely and evidence-based intervention. It sets out a pathway towards a UK system that can flex for Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs, without creating additional burdens for smaller businesses.

“The UK Government should acknowledge that it is possible and desirable to enable its immigration system to respond to different regions and nations, as well as maintain strict border controls and a user-friendly system.”

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is likely to publish its report later this week on salary thresholds, including the proposed £30,000, and how an “Australian-style points-based system” could work in the UK.

New FSB research is arguing for a £20,100 salary threshold because:

  • No small employers in Scotland pay their “lower-skilled” staff £30,000 or more – e.g. care workers and childcare workers
  • Around one in five small employers (16%) pay salaries of £30,000 or more in mid-skilled jobs – e.g. hotel managers and plumbers

Andrew McRae added: “Given pay levels in Scotland are lower than London and the South East, setting a salary threshold at £30,000 is completely unworkable for the small business community.

“At a time when many employers are planning for an uncertain post-Brexit future, it would exclude the vast majority of employers that currently rely on EU workers and cause serious disruption to the economy. If a threshold has to be set, it should be at more sensible level of £20,100 for overseas workers.”