Meeting date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 14 November 2017
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People, Migration, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, Decision Time, World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day
- Time for Reflection
- Business Motion
- Topical Question Time
- Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People
- Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body
- Decision Time
- World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day
The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-08828, in the name of Alasdair Allan, on migration.14:57
Migration might not be an issue that politicians on the United Kingdom political stage leap to make speeches about—and, sometimes, when they make speeches about it, they might have been better served by saying nothing. However, in Scotland, migration is an issue that this Parliament simply must engage with, for the good of our economy and our communities.
Historically, Scotland has been a country of emigration rather than immigration. People left Scotland to build their futures elsewhere, and those individuals made significant contributions to the new nations to which they travelled. However, clearly, emigration had an impact on our population. A country cannot export its young people in huge numbers for two centuries without some demographic consequences. It was concern about population growth—or, rather, the lack of it—that led the then Labour-Liberal Democrat Administration to develop the fresh talent initiative. The then First Minister, Jack McConnell, said:
“Scotland has a long tradition of welcoming new people, just as huge numbers of Scots have been made welcome in other countries across the world, in which they have settled and thrived. We are determined to continue and further improve on this tradition.”
That is an aspiration that I think we all share across the chamber, as we share a vision of Scotland as an open, inclusive, diverse and tolerant country. Unlike the UK as a whole, which experienced net inward migration in the 1950s and 60s, only since around 2001 has Scotland has been a nation of net in-migration. That was driven in large part by the European Union citizens who have chosen to come to live and work in Scotland and make their homes here.
Last week, the Scottish Government published clear evidence setting out the positive impact that citizens from other EU nations have had on our economy and our society. EU citizens are making a vital contribution to our economy. They are driving our population growth and ensuring that we have the workers to meet the needs of businesses and the public sector.
Some 128,000 EU citizens aged 16 and over are in employment in Scotland—5 per cent of total employment. We cannot contemplate losing even 5 per cent of our workforce. Our unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent—lower than the UK average of 4.6 per cent—and the employment rate in rural areas is significantly higher than in urban areas, although that reflects the fact that people in rural areas traditionally move out of those areas when they seek work.
The evidence that we have published sets out the positive impact of EU citizens in specific sectors in the Scottish economy. Let me take one example. Tourism generates around £34 billion in gross value added, and in every year since 2011 it has experienced year-on-year growth in gross value added and turnover. Tourism delivers employment and economic development in some of our most remote locations and sustains often fragile communities such as those that Mr Russell and I represent. It is a sector that is heavily and increasingly dependent on workers from other EU countries. According to the annual population survey, in 2016 there were approximately 17,000 EU citizens working in tourism in Scotland—around 9.4 per cent of all those working in the sector, and in the accommodation sector that rises to 15.3 per cent.
The industry-led national tourism strategy, tourism Scotland 2020, sets out a clear ambition for Scotland to become the destination of first choice for a high-quality, value-for-money and memorable customer experience. To grow the sector and deliver that ambition, we need a skilled workforce. While the tourism skills investment plan seeks to support those skills and their development, we also need the skills and experience of EU citizens.
Scotland is home to a vibrant digital technologies industry, with more than 1,000 companies working in the sector—a sector that contributed £5.1 billion in gross value added to the Scottish economy in 2015. Scotland’s computer programming and consultancy businesses alone employed 3,000 EU citizens in 2016, representing 5.8 per cent of all the employees in those businesses. The sector is crucial for future growth, but it is a sector that is dependent on specific specialist skills and experience. According to a report published by Ekosgen this year, 37 per cent of businesses in Scotland have recruited digital technology skills internationally.
I am at risk of listing sectors: there is also manufacturing, which employed 180,000 people in 2016, accounting for 7 per cent of total employment in Scotland. Some 16,300 EU citizens were employed in the manufacturing sector in 2016.
Last month, we debated the impact on musicians and the music industry of withdrawal from the European Union. As members discussed in that debate, artists from overseas contribute to our festivals and events, while Scottish artists are able to take their work to audiences throughout the EU.
I am sure that the minister will come to the food and drink sector, which is very important in my constituency. There are already signs that, because of the failure to give a guarantee about how many workers we will get into the country, some businesses in the sector in my area are thinking about not going forward with investment that they had planned. Does the minister have any evidence of that happening in the rest of the country?
I readily agree that we need to provide certainty to people working in all sectors. Moreover, I very much agree that we should remember the importance of people from other EU countries working in the food sector and do everything possible to ensure that they understand that the Scottish Government and, indeed, this Parliament recognise their right to be here and welcome their presence in our society and our economy.
I have mentioned a few sectors and I am happy to mention the food and drink sector, too. The issues highlighted in those sectors are replicated across the Scottish economy, in businesses and in the public sector. Last week, I visited the medical physics department at Edinburgh royal infirmary. There has already been significant publicity about the crucial role that EU citizens play in our health service. The Nursing and Midwifery Council has indicated that approximately 5 per cent of nurses on its register trained in the EU; UK-wide, that equates to some 33,000 trained nurses. However, the president of the Royal College of Nursing has noted that since the EU referendum, there has been a 96 per cent drop in nurses from other EU countries registering to practise in the UK. I will say that again: since the EU referendum, there has been a 96 per cent drop in nurses from other EU countries registering to practise in the UK. The evidence that we published last week provides clear information on our reliance on EU nationals who are clinicians, dentists and allied health professionals. I will focus briefly on the challenges that face not just that sector but our rural economy.
Migration can be particularly important for our rural communities. Although the number of individuals involved might be smaller, the impact of EU citizens and their families can be hugely significant. In the chamber last week, Richard Lochhead raised concerns about the importance of immigration for various sectors, including teaching. As we have heard, sectors in rural areas that are most reliant on non-UK workers include food and agriculture.
When I appeared before the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee last week, I was asked what was unique about Scotland’s needs, and I would emphasise the crucial economic impact of many of the industries that I have been speaking about, especially in our rural communities, and the disproportionate impact that the loss of small numbers of key individuals can have on small economies and communities.
Scotland’s demographic profile is simply different from that of the rest of the UK. Scotland’s population growth over the next 10 years is projected to come entirely—100 per cent—from migration, with 58 per cent from net international migration and 42 per cent from the rest of the UK. The comparative figures for the UK show that only 54 per cent of population growth will come from migration. Scotland’s figures diverge significantly from those for the rest of the UK, and it is a divergence that we as a Parliament must address.
Our population is ageing. We should welcome the fact that people are living for longer, but if we are to ensure that we provide those people with the support that they deserve, we need to maintain a healthy working-age population. The working-age population is currently projected to increase by 1 per cent over the next 25 years. However, in a scenario of zero EU migration, the working-age population in Scotland is projected to decline by 3 per cent over the same period. It is simply impossible to overstate the critical role of migration in Scotland’s future growth and prosperity.
As I said, I gave evidence last week to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, and I thank the committee for the work that is doing in this area. The committee’s report notes that there is
“broad consent across Scottish political parties, businesses, trades unions, employers associations”
about the contribution that migration makes to society in Scotland.
There is much about this debate that I hope unites us. Approximately 209,000 EU citizens live in Scotland. Each of those individuals makes not just an economic contribution but a social contribution. They are our neighbours, our friends and our family, and they enrich our communities. I invite everyone in the chamber to recognise the vital contribution that those people make to Scotland and to send a message to them that we value them and their contribution, and that we want and need them to stay in our communities.
That the Parliament supports the evidence in the Scottish Government’s submission to the Migration Advisory Committee, which demonstrates the positive contribution of European citizens to Scotland’s communities and economy; notes that immigration is crucial to key sectors, including public services, health, higher education, rural industries and financial services; recognises that free movement has allowed UK citizens to travel, live and work across the EU freely; further recognises that EU migration has helped reverse a decline in the Scottish population and that EU citizens’ right to live, work, study and invest in Scotland must be protected; notes that the Scottish Government should continue to use its powers to make Scotland an attractive place to live and work; acknowledges the findings of reports from the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee and the UK's Scottish Affairs Committee and All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration, which agreed that the current migration system needs to change and reflect local circumstances, and supports calls for a differentiated, more flexible solution, which is tailored to meet Scotland’s circumstances.
I call Jackson Carlaw to speak to and move amendment S5M-08828.1.15:08
I hope to make a number of points in this afternoon’s important debate and to draw them together as I conclude.
Last week, with the Presiding Officer, I attended the opening in my Eastwood constituency of the new Calderwood Lodge and St Clare’s Jewish and Catholic joint primary school campus. It is attended by not only Jewish and Catholic children but a significant number of Muslim children, and It is the first of its kind in not just Scotland or the UK but the world. How remarkable an achievement is that? The UK chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, noted that pupils can learn all that is best about their own faith while recognising the joint humanity and values shared by all. Bishop John Keenan said in his remarks that he
“would copy many of the remarks of the Chief Rabbi.”
After all, he observed impishly,
“that is what we have been doing for thousands of years.”
Jewish, Catholic and Muslim children are studying and living together alongside significant Chinese and Sikh communities in a modern multiracial west of Scotland constituency of which I am immensely proud.
All those communities were themselves migrants to Scotland. The Catholics migrated here over several centuries, the Jews in the late 19th century, the Muslims and others in the 20th century and, today, many new refugees and others come here seeking hope, security and freedom in our care. There is no argument, point of debate or truth other than that all those who have settled here through the ages and in modern times have contributed immeasurably to our culture, economy, understanding and evolving sense of self and nationhood. Nothing would be more unnatural to us than to plan for a future in which all that rich diversity was at risk or ruthlessly truncated. I could not and will not support that.
I am interested in what Jackson Carlaw said because, in her infamous speech to the Tory conference a few years ago, the Prime Minister said:
“While there are benefits of selective and controlled immigration, at best the net economic and fiscal effect of high immigration is close to zero.”
How does that contrast with the remarks that Jackson Carlaw has just made?
I made my position completely clear, and this debate is about what members of the Scottish Parliament think on the issues. I am grateful to Mr Rennie; it is nice to have his intervention. He was very unkind to me over the weekend when he compared me to a baked Alaska and said that I am fluffy on the outside and cold as ice on the inside. I was disappointed because we all know that little Willie’s own sponge has not risen for quite some time.
As the Conservative spokesman on health, I have spoken for years—starting long before Brexit was an acronym of sorts—about the challenges that Scotland faces from demographic changes. Added to the incredible pace of technological change with which they will be accompanied, it is increasingly possible that the world 20 years hence will be as dramatically different as the world of Waterloo and Napoleon is to us today. There will be as much change in 20 years as there was in the previous 200, the breathtaking nature of which we can barely contemplate.
The accompanying change in Scotland’s estimated population between now and 2039 will be equally as dramatic. There will be an 85 per cent increase in the number of people living in Scotland who are 75 years of age or older—from 430,000 to 800,000—which will be matched by a decrease in the working age population and a decline of 10 per cent in the number of people aged 16 to 24. If our population shift was represented by two simple images, our population today would be best imagined as a traditional pyramid and that of 2039 as an upended pyramid.
Brexit or no Brexit, the Scotland of 2039 and the years between now and then will require public policy to execute a dramatic shift. We need more people to come to, settle in and work in Scotland; to come here not just to retire, but to settle, work, live and retire. Although we unreservedly welcome the halt that has been achieved in population decline, we need a significant increase in the working age population.
As the motion and our amendment make clear, migration is not just critical for Scotland today, but will be increasingly critical for our public services—especially health and education—rural industries, financial services and the hospitality sector, which is absent from the Government’s motion, unfortunately.
As migration is a central part of the solution that our amendment prefers, it is worth noting that although the number of those of pensionable age will increase by 28 per cent in Scotland, it is set to increase by 33 per cent in the rest of the UK. Crucially, the current forecast for the working age population is that it will rise by 11 per cent in the rest of the UK, but only by 1 per cent in Scotland, as the minister identified. Expressed in net terms, the non-working age population will increase by 27 per cent in Scotland and by 22 per cent in the rest of the UK. As public services around the UK—especially health and education—rural industries, financial services and the hospitality sector will all be searching for labour and skills, we are driven to the conclusion that we will need imaginative migration policies that meet the needs of vital sectors in Scotland, so we must identify, embrace and introduce such policies.
Last week, by chance, I met someone to whom I had not spoken for nearly 35 years. He now employs more than 1,000 people in Glasgow and the central belt in a range of restaurants and bars, any one of which members are likely to have visited. He is deeply concerned. Like me, he voted to remain and, like all of us, he is concerned that a Brexit agreement must be reached and must be reached soon. He is concerned, as we are, about labour shortages. He asks why many now shun the jobs that Scots were eager for when we were young. He asks what outcomes our education system has achieved for the economy. His sector of hospitality needs labour and, with the exchange rate at today’s values, it is not enough to look to the euro currency bloc in isolation.
Consequently, the Scottish Conservatives are not persuaded of the need to design a bespoke differentiated migration system for Scotland. In any event, it is clear that in such systems in Canada, Australia and Switzerland, although the regional policy exists, there is no unilateral ability to act. There is only an ability by liaison or co-ordination with the central administrative Government.
The final part of the motion with which we agree is that the Scottish Government should use its powers to make Scotland a more attractive place to live and work. It is on that duty that the Scottish Government is comprehensively failing.
Frankly, I do not understand the reasoning of the Scottish Government and others. On the one hand, they say that Brexit is doomed to fail and that the most unprecedented and severe storm is yet to hit Scotland’s economy and people. On the other hand, the SNP says that, uniquely, the way to meet that storm is to increase taxation across Scotland, and to build on the reputation of being the highest taxed part of the UK.
Let us see the Scottish Government turning to boosting Scottish economic growth and making Scotland economically attractive across the rest of UK, where there is no currency fluctuation to impede inward migration to Scotland. It should concentrate on remedying its domestic policy failings, forgo its posturing on Brexit and work with the United Kingdom Government to achieve together a migration policy that will meet our economic sectoral needs across the UK and preserve access to the most important UK single market.
I move amendment S5M-08828.1, to leave out from “supports the evidence” to end and insert:
“notes the evidence in the Scottish Government’s submission to the Migration Advisory Committee, which demonstrates the positive contribution of migrants to Scotland’s communities and economy; notes that immigration is crucial to key sectors, including public services, health, higher education, rural industries, the hospitality sector and financial services; acknowledges the important role that migration will continue to have in addressing Scotland’s ongoing demographic challenges and skills gaps; notes the evidence that migration from both within and outwith the UK is critical to sustainable population growth in Scotland over the next 25 years; urges the Scottish Government to use its powers to make Scotland a more attractive place to live and work; acknowledges the findings of reports from the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee and the UK’s Scottish Affairs Committee and All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration; accepts the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UK single market, which is crucial for the Scottish economy, and supports calls for a solution that is tailored to meet sectoral needs in Scotland and the UK.”15:16
Migration is a major issue in its own right, but it is part of a bigger picture. Brexit means that we need new answers to a range of questions that Scotland faces today, including a new approach to immigration that reflects the different needs and priorities of the nations and regions of the UK.
It is not just last year’s referendum that sets the context for this debate; it is the changes of the past 20 years, since the Scottish people voted to establish a Scottish Parliament. As we have heard, 20th century Scotland was a country in demographic decline. More people left Scotland for other parts of the United Kingdom and the world than came here from elsewhere to make it their home. At the same time, our birth rate was in decline and our death rate remained relatively high.
Turning that around has been one of the great achievements of the devolution era. Population decline has been replaced by population growth since the turn of the century. That is not just about migration, of course. Progress in tackling the big killer diseases and reducing mortality in most of Scotland have also played a part. Nor is it just about devolution or the policies of devolved Governments in Scotland. The decision not to put quotas on immigration from new EU member states in 2004 has been critical to Scotland’s ability to grow our population ever since. That was a decision by a Labour Government at Westminster. As a result of that, thousands of people from Poland and across the European Union have come to Scotland. Some have come to earn money and broaden their CVs before they go home again, but many have come to make a new life in this country for themselves and for their children. Their contribution to the economy and cultural life of Scotland has been invaluable.
The rights of EU citizens in this country must be protected, because they deserve no less. The benefits that they bring must also be protected, which is why we need an effective new policy to meet our future needs.
Addressing Scotland’s migration needs can be done within the context of the United Kingdom without undermining either the UK single market or a coherent UK immigration policy. Scotland’s devolved Government showed that with the fresh talent initiative of 2005, which, as the minister said, was designed to retain more international graduates from Scottish universities as a key part of reversing demographic decline.
Brexit means that we need a broader approach now than we did then. Projections from Registers of Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh are clear that we need more people, especially of working age, if we are to maintain a healthy demographic balance from now until 2040. If free movement from across the European Economic Area is going to be radically reduced, will need to develop a range of other initiatives without further delay.
At this stage, we do not need to pin down the details of what a post-Brexit immigration system will look like, but it is important to acknowledge that the status quo is not an option. In that respect, the Tory amendment does not quite take the opportunity to set out a distinctive Scottish Conservative agenda. It acknowledges the particular demographic challenge that Scotland faces, as Mr Carlaw did a few moments ago, but it proposes an exclusively sectoral approach to solving it.
That is a pity, given that just a few months ago Jackson Carlaw agreed with colleagues on the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee that a distinctive Scottish approach to immigration policy after Brexit seemed a good idea.
It is important to note that some of that could already be put in place with very little change. The Scottish Government already has powers in relation to the reception and integration of migrants in Scotland. It could use those powers, in consultation and agreement with Scotland’s local authorities, to codify the rights of migrants and ensure access to services. More could be done to promote Scotland as a destination for migrants from Europe and beyond and, again, there would be no need to alter the devolution settlement in order to do that. Rather, it would be a case of raising the profile of migration alongside trade in Scotland’s representation overseas while continuing to work closely with British embassies and consulates in Europe and around the world.
I am interested in what Lewis Macdonald has said. Does he think that the problem that Scotland faces in not having enough people in the workforce is significantly different from the problem in the rest of the United Kingdom?
Mr Rumbles might be surprised by this, but I quote in evidence the comments that Mr Carlaw made, which highlighted the difference in the projected population growth of people of working age in Scotland compared to the projection for England and Wales. That shows a radical difference and, therefore, a real need for an approach that specifically recognises and addresses that demographic deficit.
Support from the UK Government will be essential in order to deliver some further objectives, but they are wholly compatible with common immigration rules for the whole of the UK. For example, it would be relatively straightforward to appoint Scottish members to the Migration Advisory Committee to reflect the specific needs of all sectors of the Scottish economy. The Migration Advisory Committee could readily agree to a fuller Scottish shortage occupation list in relation to tier 2 visas to give Scottish employers more of an input and increase the chance that visas will meet the needs of the Scottish economy. The case for a fresh talent initiative 2 speaks for itself. Alongside that, there could be parallel initiatives at other skill levels in the economy to address temporary or seasonal labour shortages and to do so in ways that secure opportunities for young people to come here to work, and to settle and raise families if they so choose.
Reversing Scotland’s population decline has been one of the great achievements of the past 20 years. As an objective, it has broad cross-party support and it can be taken forward within an agreed UK framework. In the future, meeting the demographic challenge will need to be even more explicitly a central objective of Government policy in a context where we can no longer rely on the free movement of European Economic Area citizens to address our demographic deficits. It is on that basis that we will support the Government’s motion at decision time.
We move to the open debate, in which speeches of six minutes have been allowed for.15:22
I am really glad that we are having the debate, because future policy on migration is a massive concern at the moment for the EU citizens who live here and for the businesses and industries that depend on them, and for free movement of talent coming from abroad.
As we have heard, the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee has been investigating the subject with great interest in our inquiry into the article 50 negotiations and our inquiry into a differentiated immigration system for Scotland.
To me, the matter is essentially quite simple. It is imperative that people continue to come to live and work in this country, so in order for them to do that, we need a system that reflects the specific needs of businesses and people in Scotland, which are different from the needs of those in the rest of the UK.
In the 45 years that preceded the turn of the millennium, Scotland’s population was in decline. The fact that that trend started to reverse since that time was largely down to the welcome influx of migrants to Scotland, most notably from Europe, to the extent that we now have approximately 283,000 more people living here than lived here in 2000. That is an increase of 5.7 per cent. They are people who left their own countries, for whatever reason, to make a better life here in Scotland. Many came as students and stayed on, and many moved here because of the economic situation in their own countries, having recognised that there are opportunities for them here.
During the committee’s evidence sessions, we heard from members of Fife Migrants Forum, who told us about their individual stories: we heard about their backgrounds, their lives here in Scotland and their fears about withdrawal from the EU, but we also heard about their hope that they will be able to continue to make lives here for themselves and their families.
Two weeks ago, we had a debate in the chamber on the EU negotiations, in which I raised my family situation. I am glad that I did so, because since then I have been inundated with information from people who are in similar or worse situations. The information has come from people who have already left Scotland or who plan to leave because of the uncertainty about their future or, which is most hurtful, because they no longer feel welcome here.
If members have followed @The3Million or #500DaysInLimbo on Twitter, they will have seen story after story about people having lost work and homes, about the active discrimination and exploitative practices that are taking place, and about the lack of engagement and poor communication with EU citizens here on the discussions and negotiations that will affect their lives. It is really hard not to get angry at those stories and at the fact that we are now more than 500 days on from the referendum vote and there are still far more questions than answers on the future of EU citizens post-Brexit. That was made alarmingly evident in our committee’s session with the Secretary of State for Scotland two weeks ago, in which no answers or assurances were forthcoming.
We are often told that the UK is within touching distance of a deal with the EU, but that means very little because we still have no idea what “settled status” will mean, and there has been no clarification of what the future will be for low earners, for people who are paid cash in hand, or even for the volunteers who come from the EU to work here—especially if we face a no-deal scenario, which grows increasingly likely by the day.
We need an effective migration policy because it is a fact that people who come to this country tend to be young, well qualified and hard working. Statistically, EU nationals are predominantly under 35 and have a much younger age profile across all age groups than Scottish nationals have. That means that they are net contributors to our economy, that they use fewer public services and that they contribute more to public services than they take out. That completely debunks the ridiculous myth that is continually perpetuated by the hard-right media and, in fact, by the Prime Minister, that those people are a drain on public resources. Many of the people who come here use their qualifications to work in our public services.
Does Mairi Gougeon agree that any deal with Europe needs to be a two-way deal and that we have to secure the rights of UK nationals who live in European countries? Does she agree that, as well as the UK Government needing to reach an agreement, the European Union has to come to the table and negotiate?
The EU is already doing that. I agree with Jeremy Balfour that we need to protect the rights of UK nationals who live abroad—of course we do—but it is a fact that the UK Government is not going far enough to protect the rights of EU citizens here.
Universities Scotland has calculated that non-UK students contribute about £800 million annually to our economy. Professor Christina Boswell of the Scottish Centre on European Relations has stated that we should not be concerned
“with how to limit inflows ... but rather, the challenge of sustaining much-needed flows of EU nationals to fill jobs in sectors such as agriculture, services and construction.”
Graeme Dey and I directly heard about that agricultural concern when we met NFU Scotland in my constituency last week. There are options for how we can achieve that.
The committee received from Dr Eve Hepburn a detailed report that outlined examples in which that already happens from across the world, and a number of different approaches that could be adopted. Some options would require further devolution of powers from Westminster, but some require only political will on both sides to make them happen. However, it is clear from the evidence that we received that the current system does not address the needs of our public services, businesses and other industries and sectors in Scotland, and that the industries and sectors that are being affected do not think that they can feed into the system in a meaningful way.
There is no doubt that the only way that we can provide a system that works for Scotland is by having a direct hand in designing and determining it. I hope that we can send one message, as a unified Parliament, to all the EU citizens who live and work here right now. We need to let them know that we are proud that they have chosen to make Scotland their home, that we welcome them, that we value them and that we will do everything in our power to protect their right to be here.15:30
We are all agreed that the topic that we debate today is a vital issue that is at the forefront of Brexit discussions. Industries up and down Scotland are concerned about their workforce planning. Scotland also faces democratic challenges—[Interruption.]. I thank Tom Arthur: I meant to say that Scotland faces demographic challenges. I am encouraged by a sentence in the amendment, which is that Parliament
“urges the Scottish Government to use its powers to make Scotland a more attractive place to live and work”.
Making Scotland an attractive place for migrants includes many levers, including a competitive taxation policy.
In the Scottish Borders, across Scotland and throughout the rest of the UK, the agriculture, hospitality and other sectors are concerned that the depletion in the number of EU migrants will negatively impact their businesses. Of course, there is more than an economic cost: there is a cultural cost, too.
According to the most recent census data, there is a sizeable Polish community of about 1,300 in the Scottish Borders. Its contribution cannot be overstated. Those people work hard, integrate well and add cultural diversity. In May, the Prime Minister visited Abbey Tool & Gauge in my constituency, which is a large employer where many Polish people are employed. The Borders is now their home.
In December, I will visit the Saturday Polish School Hawick CIC, which offers courses to Polish and English-speaking adults. It is a great example of how the Polish community does well at integrating while maintaining and promoting its own culture. I know that there is some anxiety among the community about its future as the UK leaves the European Union, so ensuring that Polish people continue to feel welcome in the Borders is an absolute necessity. Therefore, it is a priority—as the Prime Minister has made clear—that the rights of EU nationals are settled. We are close to settling those rights.
The Conservative amendment asks that Parliament
“accepts the importance of maintaining the integrity of the UK single market, which is crucial for the Scottish economy, and supports calls for a solution that is tailored to meet sectoral needs in Scotland and the UK.”
That is the right course of action. The wrong course of action would be to have a differentiated immigration system for Scotland. Academics and businesses agree with the Scottish Conservatives. A report published by the migration observatory at the University of Oxford states:
“From a technical perspective, it is therefore not clear that significant regional variation would lead to a better match between policy and regional economic needs. At the same time, regionalisation has an economic drawback, which is that a more complex immigration system would increase administrative burdens for its users, such as large employers who employ staff in more than one part of the UK.”
Rachael Hamilton has outlined that she considers it difficult to contemplate regional or, indeed, national variation within the UK on this policy area. Will she explain why the UK Government—rightly—continues to talk more warmly about a slightly different solution for Northern Ireland, and why that flexibility cannot be extended to Scotland?
The situation in Northern Ireland is unique; it is not applicable to Scotland.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce, in its response to the Scottish Parliament Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee’s inquiry on immigration, said that it
“does not believe that devolution of immigration powers to Scotland is necessary to achieve a business solution to migration targets, but sectoral and geographical factors are central to the ability of a UK-wide immigration policy to meet business need.”
Migrant labour needs in some sectors are the same throughout the UK. As I stated to the minister last week, the requirement for seasonal strawberry pickers in Angus is the same as it is in Herefordshire. The Prime Minister, in a recent response to Kirstene Hair MP on the need for seasonal migrant labour in her constituency, said:
“the Home Secretary has commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look at the needs of the UK labour market and to further inform our work as we bring those new immigration rules in.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 1 November 2017; Vol 630, c 822.]
Will the member take an intervention?
I will, if it is quick.
I will be very quick. It is the same question that I asked Rachael Hamilton in a debate two weeks ago. She has mentioned a number of sectors in which there are key shortages. They are low-wage sectors, so why does the UK Government propose minimum income thresholds?
The Scottish Government is trying to sign up people to the national living wage, but it recently expressed disappointment about uptake.
The director of policy at the NFU Scotland, Jonnie Hall, said that a bespoke immigration policy would mean
“some sort of checkpoint near Berwick ... and let’s not create another headache internally within Great Britain.”
Free movement of people in the UK single market is vital, particularly in my constituency where commuters move freely over the border daily. Indeed, the NFUS recognises that Brexit presents opportunities in recruitment from outside the EU. Currently, not being able to recruit outside the EU causes recruitment issues. Post-Brexit, the agricultural sector can recruit from non-EU countries with potentially more interest coming to Scotland. [Interruption.] That was a quotation from the NFUS; members are looking very confused.
Will the member take an intervention?
I would like to make some progress, if the member does not mind.
The Food and Drink Federation Scotland has said that it would not support the addition of further levels of processing and assessment over and above those that currently exist at UK level, because that could add to processing times for visa applications. Furthermore, the use of a Scottish work permit could restrict movement of individuals in respect of the requirements of the industry and the permit holders.
A point that is often missed by those who call for a bespoke immigration deal is that it would not fix the skills shortage in Scotland. The Scottish food and drink sector has highlighted the need to raise attractiveness to new entrants, to encourage leadership and management excellence and to support the development of skills and growth in the workforce. Almost half the people in the sector’s workforce are over 50 and are likely to retire in the next 10 to 15 years. As I have mentioned in a previous speech, in 2015, the tourism industry recorded that 27 per cent of employers had had at least one unfilled vacancy within the previous 12 months, and that 22 per cent of vacancies in hotels and restaurants were due to skills shortages.
Dr Allan rose—
The member is coming to a close.
In my constituency, skills shortages are exacerbated by the numbers of young people who are leaving the area to seek opportunities. Neither are the vacancies there that are left by skills shortages being filled by EU migrants, who find the lure of big cities more attractive. A bespoke agreement will therefore not solve the problem that is found in all of Scotland—and the UK, for that matter. To do so, we need to focus on developing the skills in key sectors including tourism, hospitality—
You must close, please.
—food and drink, and agriculture.
So far, members have had a fair shot at running over time. Other speakers will have to stick to time a bit more.15:36
Earlier this month, I made a constituency visit to Loch Arthur, which is a social enterprise and sheltered community in Beeswing, near Dumfries, which is run by Camphill Scotland. Camphill is a global organisation that was founded in Scotland and now has 11 communities across the country, in which young people from European countries live and work on a voluntary basis beside people with learning disabilities for whom Camphill is their home. The organisation was founded in Aberdeenshire in 1939 by Karl Koenig, a Jewish Austrian paediatrician who fled from the Nazis to come here along with some of his students. He believed that everyone mattered and should be included, and that education could be therapeutic as well as inclusive.
Today, young Europeans make up 68 per cent of Camphill’s volunteers. They are qualified in social work, occupational therapy or special needs education. Often, their short-term placement turns into a long-term commitment; they stay in Camphill and raise families there. That is all under threat if we leave the EU and if EU citizens who arrive in future—after Brexit, should it go ahead—are treated as third-country nationals. For example, in Loch Arthur, an American volunteer who worked in the bakery and supported residents in one of its houses was told to pack up and go because she did not meet the income criteria for UK residency.
Camphill is one example of the wider humanitarian contributions that EU citizens make to Scotland and the UK as a whole. People from the EU are volunteers, active citizens, good neighbours and social entrepreneurs. They are priceless and irreplaceable.
The Scottish Government’s submission to the MAC puts a value on the contribution of working EU citizens: a very impressive £34,400 each year towards gross domestic product. Of course, and as I am sure the minister will agree, that is an underestimate: it does not include the unpaid work that many European citizens do.
The Scottish Government’s submission to the MAC is welcome, but not surprising to me or to other members of the Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee. As others have identified, our report pointed to the very serious workforce and demographic challenges that will be faced by Scotland should EU citizens stop coming to live and work here. We recommended that, to tackle that time bomb, Scotland needs to have a differentiated system of immigration—but of what kind? I am concerned.
We hear from the Conservatives that a UK approach is the way forward, but what I have heard of such an approach is very worrying. The UK Minister of State for Immigration, Brandon Lewis, told a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference:
“There will be an immigration bill in the new year”,
but the MAC, to which the Scottish Government and others have been told to submit their views, will not publish the results of its engagement exercise until next September, long after the immigration bill has been introduced. That leads me to ask whether the engagement exercise is meaningful.
It is worrying that a document that was leaked to The Guardian newspaper, which is said to be a draft of the immigration white paper, suggests that the UK plans for the bill are as far from the Scottish Government’s position as can be imagined. According to the document, the Government proposes a system of temporary residence permits for EU migrants post-Brexit and plans to remove entirely the right to settle in the UK.
Such an approach will exacerbate Scotland’s demographic challenge, as members said. The treatment of EU citizens as third-country citizens will be a disaster for voluntary organisations such as Camphill. The Camphill volunteers do not draw a wage, so they fail to meet the income criteria under current immigration rules.
The current immigration rules could have heartbreaking consequences for families if they are extended to EU nationals. At the moment, a UK citizen without dependent children who wants to bring their spouse to this country needs to earn £18,600. The threshold rises to £24,800 if the person has two dependent children. Last year, the migration observatory published its finding that
“40% of British citizens working as full-time or part-time employees ... earned less than the income threshold.”
The migration observatory found that the position for women is even worse: in childless couples, some 55 per cent of British women fall below the threshold, compared with 27 per cent of men, and 69 per cent of women fall below the threshold for families with two children, compared with 44 per cent of men.
The rule is heartbreaking. It is also deeply discriminatory. I think that we can all agree that it is totally wrong that, currently, people who have been born here and who have lived and worked in the UK all their lives cannot easily bring their American, South African or Indian husband or wife to this country. In future, the approach could well apply to someone who falls in love with a national from Spain, France or Italy.
It is worth remembering that the current system was approved by the Migration Advisory Committee. The MAC has no Scottish representative, and despite claiming to engage widely to inform UK policy, it is not accepting the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee’s invitation to come and meet us. Evidence from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Unison and others suggests that the MAC is not responsive to Scottish needs and has poor-quality data from Scotland on which to work. That, in addition to the workforce planning and demographic challenges about which other members have talked in detail and interestingly, is a reason why Scotland should have a bespoke approach to immigration.
Even more important, we should introduce a system that is compassionate. We should take our lead from organisations such as Camphill, which was founded by European migrants who were determined to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people in Scotland. We need an immigration system that values people not just in the monetary sense but for their priceless contribution to our society.15:42
Migration is a good thing. People need the freedom to move about and seek a better life for themselves.
It is crucial that we create opportunities for young people, to stop outward emigration and to encourage inward migration. In the Highlands and Islands, we have a history of emigration. Our history tells us of the clearances, when people were forced off the land that they worked, to increase the wealth of the landowning classes. People who could afford to leave did so, emigrating in large numbers to Canada, America and New Zealand, and taking with them their wealth and their entrepreneurial spirit. Those people were economic migrants, who sought a better life for themselves and their families. The economy of the Highlands and Islands still suffers from their loss, and because of that, emigration continues. Our young people leave, seeking better opportunities, because our economy has never fully recovered.
Vibrant economies depend on people, so depopulation creates a downward spiral, which needs to be stopped. Only with people can we build economies that will provide our young people with the bright future that will persuade them to stay. We urgently need to address depopulation, because inward migration is an economic necessity.
EU nationals tend to be young and ready to put down roots and start families—the very people our communities are crying out for. Many of the business sectors that are most prevalent across the Highlands and Islands are heavily reliant on migrant workers, whether for trawler crews or farm labourers. There is also a need for seasonal migrants for the fruit-picking and summer tourism industries, which have long used international migrants to power the economies of otherwise vulnerable rural areas.
Although we recognise the need for inward migration, we must acknowledge that other parts of the UK do not need it. That is why we need to have different migration policies in different parts of the UK. Northern England and many parts of Scotland need inward migration, and we need to be able to put in place policies and rules that are different in order to suit the whole country.
The fact that 5 per cent of Scotland’s workforce is made up of EU nationals means that they are crucial to our economy, but that is also true of people from other parts of the world. I was told by hospitality businesses in the Western Isles that they are facing great difficulty in recruiting staff. They are becoming more dependent on students who are home for holidays, but once those young people return to university, they are having to close their businesses, despite there still being many tourists around. As well as being a direct loss to those businesses, that represents a loss to the local economy. At the same time, I overheard tourists complaining about the number of places that had been closed and the impact that that was having on their holiday. We need to build up the hospitality industry by giving visitors a good experience, because if they have a bad experience, they will not come back again.
That being the case, I am surprised that we have had a number of high-profile cases in the Highlands and Islands in which foreign nationals—I am not talking about EU citizens—have been told to go home, despite the fact that they are making an important contribution to the economy. Some of the people who are being asked to leave are playing a crucial role in areas that are suffering from depopulation.
New Zealand faces a similar problem, in that its young people want to leave and it needs to encourage others to inward migrate. The New Zealand authorities spend much more time attracting people and supporting them when they arrive. They put them in touch with other families, who buddy them for years. That works as a way of attracting people to areas where they are most needed.
Brexit will impact on how people view the UK. Even if we give them the security that they need in order to stay, the backdrop of the uncertainty that has been caused by Brexit will put people off coming here. The RCN has said that there has been a 96 per cent drop in the number of nurses from EU countries coming to the UK, and we hear that almost a fifth of our EU doctors have made plans to leave the UK. Our rural health boards are struggling to fill posts, and a huge amount of public money is being wasted backfilling those posts with expensive locums. Surely common sense needs to prevail to ensure that we are as welcoming as possible to people from other countries in order to fill our skills gaps.
We need to learn from countries that encourage inward migration and do it well. I have mentioned New Zealand, but we must also look at Australia, which appears to be attracting a high number of newly qualified doctors from the UK. Why is that? Many of the posts in question are based in areas that make our remote rural practices appear urban. What is Australia offering our new recruits that we are not? It might be offering them less pressure and more time for career development. If that is the case, we must find ways of replicating that to make our posts more attractive to our home-grown talent and to people from abroad. We must also look at quality of life, which is crucial for keeping our young people and for providing an attractive destination for those whose skills we need.
It is clear that we need inward migration. Rather than pick a fight with the rest of the UK, we must understand the needs and fears of people in the rest of the UK and make them understand ours. The Labour Party has pushed for a constitutional convention to look at how the differing needs of the UK can be met within the devolved structures. It is important to this island that we make the best of the strength that binds us while recognising and celebrating our differences.15:49
I was attending the Royal Highland Show on the day that the outcome of the referendum on European Union membership emerged. As I drove home, I took a call from a prominent figure in Scotland’s soft fruit sector. He was utterly aghast at the result and was already processing its potential impact on his industry, given its reliance on migrant workers. I committed to working with him and his colleagues to address the damage that Brexit might inflict on a sector that contributes more than £47 million a year to the economy of Angus.
Astonishingly, more than 500 days on from that vote, the question remains of exactly where we are in terms of the soft fruit sector—and indeed wider Scottish agriculture—having confirmed access to the workforce that it needs.
The UK Government is no further forward in providing the certainty, but we are certainly already seeing the consequences of the decision to leave the EU.
There will be those who point out that there is still adequate time for reaching a decision on freedom of movement and on whether special measures might be needed or implemented to cater for the agricultural workforce or the rights of EU nationals who already live here. After all, we have been told that the UK Government wants to strike a deal on the status of EU nationals who already reside in the UK, and seasonal workers will still be able to come to the UK until March 2019.
That ignores two things. First, it ignores the continuing emotional toll being exacted on our fellow Europeans who have made Scotland their home—something that I was reminded of yesterday when a French constituent visited one of my surgeries seeking reassurance as to what the future might hold, not just for her but for fellow immigrants who would want to follow the path that she trod many years ago.
Secondly, in the case of seasonal agricultural workers, although they might be able to come here in the short term, will they still want to? The evidence is mounting that the answer to that question is no—with all the economic consequences that that carries for Scotland.
All of us are aware of reports that a shortage of migrant farm labour is emerging. Cornwall, which voted to leave the EU, has had particular difficulties. So too has the apple industry in England. What of Scotland? What has been happening here? When Mike Russell and I visited Angus Growers in Arbroath earlier this year, we spoke to some of the EU citizens who work there. We heard from those key contributors to the local and wider economy that they felt unwelcome as a result of the Brexit vote and that the collapse in the pound’s value meant that coming here was less financially attractive. We heard that going to Germany, where their skills are wanted and they would be paid in euros, looked to be a better option for 2018. The fact that the minimum wage in Germany has subsequently gone up will only strengthen the pull to a country from which the commute home is far easier.
As the Scottish Government noted in its response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence, the demand for seasonal agricultural workers means that there is a risk that even the perception of the UK being unwelcoming—regardless of any actual barriers—could result in workers from EU member states choosing to go to other countries, such as Germany. That document also rightly highlights that the recruitment of local people alone could not address the problem, especially owing to the low unemployment levels in rural areas.
As I touched upon earlier, clear evidence is emerging that Brexit is already leaving its mark on the soft fruit sector.
Will the member give way?
The member is exactly right about this issue. Does he also recognise that the soft fruit sector has grown massively in recent years, so that even if we wanted to go back to using only Scottish workers, there would not be enough of them because the industry is so much bigger now?
Willie Rennie is absolutely right about that.
The problem that is emerging is that fewer workers are turning up this year and then hanging around until the tail-end of the season, when they would usually have three days a week of relatively well-paid work and might use the rest of their time to tour Scotland.
I acknowledge that other factors might be at play. It has, for example, been suggested to me that a contributory factor to the lack of available workers at the end of the season is that the level of unemployment benefit now being paid in Bulgaria is linked to the earnings that are accrued in the three-month period prior to a person seeking such support. It might therefore pay Bulgarians to head home on the back of a period of full employment rather than what is available to them late in the year. However, Bulgarians make up only a small proportion of the migrant workforce, so that would only partially explain away the early departures.
What specifically has the impact been? One organisation that was cited in the Scottish Government’s submission is Angus Growers. I am grateful to that organisation for allowing me to share with the chamber details of what has happened across its 18 farms this year.
Angus Growers needs 4,100 workers annually. This year a total of 347 seasonal employees either did not arrive or left early, giving little notice. That is 8.5 per cent of the workforce. The group has had to pay 35,580 overtime hours to address the labour shortages. The cost of overtime, training and transport between farms is estimated at a shade under £225,000. Sitting alongside that and despite the overtime spend, a total of £436,000 worth of fruit was either left unpicked or had to be downgraded to grade 2.
Presiding Officer, in total, those farms took a £660,000 hit, courtesy of having fewer workers at their disposal. If not entirely, that is certainly largely because of the Brexit decision. No one can reasonably suggest that things are going to get better, at least, not any time soon.
The NFUS believes that mechanisms to allow access to workers must be introduced, so that nothing impedes that access in spring 2019. It is not prescriptive about the solution, but one possibility is the reintroduction of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which was abolished in 2013 after having been in place for 60 years. Scotland—indeed, the wider UK—needs those individuals with their skills and work ethic; a new SAWS would be a way to achieve that. The NFUS states that the previous SAWS restrictions, with quotas and people working for no more than six months, would need to be looked at, the latter owing to the expanded use of polytunnels, which has extended the growing season. When we refer to seasonal migrant workers in the context of soft fruit, we are talking about people who are now here for up to eight months of the year. A new SAWS would have to reflect those changed circumstances.
Presiding Officer, to conclude—
I have sought to be as measured as possible in laying out the situation that the industry faces, but there is no getting away from the fact that, unless measures to safeguard access to the workforce are implemented quickly, the industry will have serious problems to contend with next year.
Come to a close, please.
Beyond that, they could face decimation.15:55
I am delighted to take part in this debate on migration. The Scottish Conservatives value the significant contribution that migrants make to Scotland in our economy, our culture and our everyday lives. That great contribution should be at the forefront of our minds as we consider the options for managing migration as we leave the EU.
The vote to leave the European Union last year was not a vote against migration, but rather a vote for controlled migration. It is paramount for the future success of Scotland and the rest of the UK that we continue to welcome individuals to our economy: our health sector and our hospitality and tourism sector need those individuals and we know that. However, we need to ensure that the future system welcomes the best and the brightest from the whole world and not from one single continent. We should welcome migrants based on their skills and what they have to contribute to our nation, not on where they come from.
To those from the EU who already live and work here, the message is clear: we want you to stay. The Prime Minister has given her assurances that the right to remain will be offered to all EU nationals who have chosen to make the UK their home.
Will the member take an intervention?
Will the member take an intervention?
Oh. I will take an intervention from Ms Gougeon.
I call Mairi Gougeon.
Perhaps Alexander Stewart has more information than we do. Will he respond to the points that have been raised about volunteers and cash-in-hand workers, on which there have been no answers and no assurances from the UK Government?
I take exception to that question. The clear motivation behind the assurances is that we are trying to ensure that individuals who are here, remain here. That has been talked about on many occasions, and that is the way that we are moving forward.
In contrast, the current First Minister’s position on EU migrants is somewhat muddled. In the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence, Nicola Sturgeon cynically suggested that the future of EU migrants would be under threat in the event of a no vote. I will quote her:
“There are 160,000 EU nationals from other states living in Scotland ... If Scotland was outside Europe, they would lose the right to stay here.”
That is a quote from Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP is therefore in no position to lecture others on the treatment of EU nationals.
We know that Scotland faces a number of demographic challenges, not least that the expected population increase is lower than that of the rest of the UK as a whole. The population is expected to increase by 7 per cent between 2014 and 2039, which is lower than the 15 per cent that we expect for the rest of the UK. That predicted population growth of 7 per cent would be sustained as long as net migration to Scotland remained at around 9,000 people per year. The reality is that, if current trends continue, net inward migration is projected to be the main contributor to Scotland’s population growth over the next 25 years. Improving net migration and immigration also means encouraging those who are already living in Scotland to stay, which is well within the SNP’s influence. Around 3,000 doctors have left Scotland since 2008, and we need opportunities and possibilities to retain professions that wish to remain and wish to stay here. We want to protect that, and the Scottish Government has a role to play in that. Making Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom is not the right way to go about making sure that that is the case.
I am curious to know whether the member, hand on heart and in all seriousness, really thinks that the thing that is worrying EU citizens who are living here is the fact that there is a debate going on in this Parliament about the upper rates of income tax or about income tax as a whole. Does he really think that that might be what is influencing their decision whether or not to stay here at the moment?
Everybody contributes to every part of that, but the money in someone’s purse or wallet is vitally important. If the Government is going to tax people more, it will put them off coming to this country. Why should we in Scotland be subjected to that? It is not fair, and people see and understand that.
What stops people coming is a lot more than that.
Mr Arthur, behave yourself.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. The SNP nevertheless seems to think that all of Scotland’s demographic problems can be solved by a different migration system, but the assertions are quite the opposite and scrutiny has shown that. There are large bodies of expert opinion that have opposed the idea and are warning that it could have serious negative impacts on the Scottish economy. A report published by the University of Oxford’s migration observatory, for example, states that regionalisation has an economic drawback and that a more complex system would increase administrative burdens, which would have an effect on businesses in the United Kingdom. There are many companies operating across Scotland that do not wish to see that happen.
We owe a debt of gratitude to migrants in Scotland for the immense contribution that they make to our nation. We need them and they need us. I am confident that any future immigration will reflect the fact that both Scotland and the United Kingdom will continue to be open and welcoming to those from around the world as we chart a new course for our country outside the European Union. I support the amendment in the name of Jackson Carlaw.16:02
Most of us, I dare say, are or have been migrants. I have certainly been one myself. We are a country of migrants—too often leaving, not arriving. As the MSP for a very rural part of Scotland that still struggles to retain its population—as Rhoda Grant eloquently highlighted—I can say that we want more migrants. Plenty have left, and not enough have stayed or moved in. That is an open invitation to anybody who is watching.
Yesterday, I was on a panel in Fort William answering questions from an audience, and the vast majority of questions were on depopulation and recruitment. That is partly because the new owner of the Lochaber smelter, Liberty, has just submitted detailed proposals for a new factory, which will support an additional 744 jobs either directly or through the supply chain. That is a whopping figure—744 new jobs for a town with a population of 10,000. It is great news, but now is not the time to make it harder for would-be workers.
If Lochaber is leading the industrial comeback, Skye is setting the bar for tourism—it is all happening in the Highlands. The vast majority of hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions have employees from outwith the UK, generally from EU countries. Demand for our glorious scenery and delicious food is already outstripping supply. We want more workers and more entrepreneurs, not fewer.
Debates on migration are usually couched in economic terms, and I have just done that myself, but I want to emphasise throughout my speech the human lives that are caught up in our increasingly polarising debates on the subject.
Migration is good: it is good for economic growth, and that is good for all of us, because when GDP goes up average incomes go up, absolute levels of poverty decrease and employment rates go up. Migration is good for our businesses communities, as the employment rate for EU nationals is higher than the overall rate for Scotland, and they are generally better qualified than we are too. Migration is good for our population growth, as all the projected population increase over the next 10 years in Scotland will be down to net in-migration, with the vast majority from outside the UK. That, of course, reflects what has happened over the past 10 years as well, with 88 per cent of population growth in Scotland coming from inward migration. That is a far higher figure than for the UK as a whole.
As has already been touched on, migration is good for our public services, and particularly the health and social care sector, which is the single greatest employer of EU citizens.
I thank Ms—
I was waiting for the light on my microphone to come.
There is little to disagree with in Ms Forbes’s comments, but I am interested to hear whether she has any views on how we could help to tackle depopulation in the Highlands and Islands by encouraging more people who were born and bred there to stay or to return after acquiring qualifications. That is also part of the problem.
Yes, that is an excellent point. We are not saying that everybody who leaves school should stay, but after leaving school, every one of my peers at a Highland high school left the Highlands at the same time and few of them have come back.
There are several points. In Fort William at the moment, we need training opportunities. That is about careers and the first step from school into work. That is why we need training and why we need university provision—and the University of the Highlands and Islands has been fantastic in that respect. Secondly, we need career progression, and the more jobs that are available, the more scope there is for career progression.
The human element is the part that causes me most frustration—and, at times, anger. I know—I am sure that all our postbags are full of such stories—of couples who have been split up for months at a time. I am talking about newly-weds who return from honeymoon to be told that one partner’s salary is not sufficient, or that their savings are not sufficient, and they cannot enter the country. That is followed by months of stress, worry and separation. It is cruel. They are not somehow bad people; they are dentists, naval architects and entrepreneurs—and those are just the ones I know about. My greatest fear is that, if freedom of movement is reduced for EU citizens, they will be subjected to the same steely, cold, unforgiving and suspicious approach from the Home Office.
Because of the removal of the post-study work visa, talented students are not coming in the first place. The graduates we need—the engineers and medics from India, Nigeria and other countries—are going to Canada, Germany and the United States. We—our society and our future—are the victims of the Government’s very short-termist, ill-thought-through and destructive decision to cut the tier 2 post-study work visa.
At the end of the day, we are talking about people. That is perhaps best symbolised by the Zielsdorfs, a family with five children who bought and invested in the only village shop in rural Laggan and turned it into a thriving business. After just short of 10 years, to the mutual shame of the Home Office and the UK Government, they were deported. The last time that I drove past the shop, it was still shut and boarded up.16:08
Scotland has benefited enormously from migration, culturally, socially and economically. Having historically faced significant emigration of Scots to places such as America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, we have relied heavily on migration into Scotland over recent years to reverse that population decline, fill skills shortages and keep many rural communities in particular viable. For example, about one in six of our nurses and midwives was born abroad. For nursing assistants, the figure rises to one in five. One third of university academic staff have come to Scotland from somewhere else in the world. A huge number of EU nationals in particular work in our agricultural industries and live in our rural communities.
Healthcare, food production and education are core services and sectors that employ a disproportionate number of people who have come from outside the UK, both from the rest of Europe and from the wider world. Brexit poses a clear risk to those key sectors. The number of European nurses registering to work here has already dropped by 96 per cent, leaving NHS Scotland vacancy rates at the highest ever recorded. The National Farmers Union has reported a 29 per cent shortfall in seasonal workers, which is resulting in fruit literally being left to rot in the fields.
As Kate Forbes said, migration is not only about employment levels or economic contribution. People are not simply units of labour that are moved from one country to another depending on the needs of a ruling economic class. This is also about what kind of society we want to live in. Do we want to live in a society that is enriched socially and culturally by openness and free movement, or one that is on a closed, hostile little island, angry and isolationist, on the outskirts of Europe?
We value the freedom to move abroad and to visit, live in and work in other countries. After all, people who were born in Scotland have been doing that for hundreds of years and have spread all across the globe. It is only fair that we extend that same right to those who wish to come here and contribute to Scottish society. I know that that position is shared by many—most—of the parties in this Parliament and I believe that it is shared by most of the people of Scotland.
We are talking not just about remaining in the EU and benefiting from freedom of movement in Europe, but about increasing immigration from across the world, because we know the benefits. More accurately, we are talking about removing the unnecessary barriers and cruel systems that currently make up the UK immigration system for those who come from outside Europe. That is the mainstream position in Scotland, but we are unable to make that position a reality and to respond to Scotland’s needs and values. Instead, our migration policy is created at the UK level by a Government that is intent on creating a hostile landscape for migrants, in an atmosphere that has seen the debate poisoned and dragged so far to the right that a centre-left party can somehow think it acceptable to chisel “controls on immigration” into its own headstone. We have seen the UK Government enact heartless policies that do not respect people as human beings deserving of dignity. One of the biggest fears that has been voiced by the EU nationals in Scotland to whom I have spoken is that they will be treated in the same way that the UK already treats third-country nationals.
The hostile environment that has been intentionally created by the UK Government has seen the Home Office split families apart. The callousness at the heart of the UK’s immigration system has also been imposed on our refugee and asylum systems, which are run by that same Home Office. People who came to the UK as children have been forced to return to a country that they have never known and in which they have no family. Women and children who are at risk of female genital mutilation have faced deportation. It is now normal to see MPs routinely campaign against the deportation of constituents who are immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including individuals who face serious harm or even death. It has been normalised, but it is not okay.
The issue of the responsibility to house asylum seekers is an example of the asymmetrical distribution of powers in the UK. The system involves the UK Government’s tendering process, with housing delivered by organisations that are far more interested in squeezing out extra profits than in treating people with dignity. Asylum seekers have been forced to live in slum-like conditions, in insecure, damp, dirty and rat-infested houses. Victims of abuse and traumatised people have been placed in houses without even a lock on their doors. Last January, a Westminster Home Affairs Committee report branded asylum housing a disgrace. However, in October, charities said that the UK Government was still to respond to the report’s findings. Despite our responsibility over housing policy for everyone else in Scotland, we are not in a position to help the asylum seekers who are placed here.
We need to restore humanity to the immigration system and create a system that is suited to Scotland’s needs and aspirations. To do that, we need to devolve powers over migration and asylum to the Scottish Parliament, where appropriate. There are already plenty of examples across the world that show how such systems could work. The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee has commissioned research into that, as has already been mentioned. Quebec and the other Canadian provinces, as well as Australian states, are examples of places that enjoy significant control over immigration. That allows sub-state bodies to sponsor visas and encourage migrants to settle in areas that are deemed to have low population growth or other specific needs. Under the Canada-Quebec Accords of 1991, Quebec has sole responsibility for establishing immigration levels in the province.
I would not pretend that there are no challenges to overcome in relation to the devolution of migration powers but, as other countries have demonstrated, it can be done. Further, it can be done in imaginative ways. The example of the Swiss cantons shows that levels of responsibility can be given to layers of government below the equivalent of this national Parliament. In Scotland, the debate must include our local councils and what their role in any devolved system could be. If the argument is about the specific needs of Scotland as a whole, much the same argument can also be applied to the specific needs of Dumfries and Galloway or Angus.
Greens believe in a world beyond borders. We believe that no human being should be declared illegal on the basis of nothing more than the patch of land they were born on and the patch they now live on. Scotland has long reflected that outward-looking, internationalist and welcoming approach. We just need the right powers at the right levels to make it a reality.16:14
It seems that Conservative members of the Scottish Parliament have been determined to prove me absolutely right when I compared them with a baked Alaska at the weekend. For the benefit of those who were not at the conference, I compared them with a baked Alaska, because they are light and fluffy on the outside, but cold hearted.
Today, they have proved that exact point. They are light and fluffy—the amendment in the name of Jackson Carlaw says:
“immigration is crucial to key sectors, including public services, health, higher education, rural industries, the hospitality sector and financial services”.
They are cold hearted—Theresa May has said:
“there are thousands of people who have been forced out of the labour market, still unable to find a job.”
They are light and fluffy—the Conservative amendment goes on to acknowledge
“the important role that migration will continue to have in addressing Scotland’s ongoing demographic challenges and skills gaps”.
Meanwhile, Theresa May says that the benefits of immigration are “close to zero”—that is exactly what their Prime Minister said. So we see that Jackson Carlaw says one thing; and the Prime Minister says another.
I watched Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative Party conference and I saw the whole hall rise to their feet at the end of what I thought was a deplorable speech. That included one Ruth Davidson, who applauded every single word of what Theresa May said about immigration. Who is in charge of the Conservative Party? Is it Ruth Davidson, is it Jackson Carlaw or is it Theresa May, because I am sure that the immigration policy that Scottish Conservative MPs at Westminster will vote for is the one that Theresa May sets out and not the one that Jackson Carlaw has put forward today?
The verbal gymnastics do not stop there. The British Medical Association has warned that a third of EU general practitioners working in the NHS in Scotland are thinking of leaving in the wake of Brexit; 14 per cent have already made plans to go. On the high streets of Scotland, the Conservatives are campaigning about the fact that we will be 850 GPs short by 2021, but they seem to ignore the fact that their own Government is driving GPs out of the country. It is more verbal gymnastics from the Scottish Conservatives. EU citizens have been drip fed anti-immigration propaganda by the Conservative Party, and Brexit has reinforced that.
Graeme Dey made an excellent speech and some really important points about the real peril that is facing our fruit and veg sector. The food and drink sector has grown massively in recent years on the back of workers from the European Union, because we cannot get enough Scottish workers to work in that sector. The sector is hoping to double by 2030, to the value of up to £30 billion, but that will not be achieved if we are not getting workers to come to this country—and Theresa May’s policy is that she does not want them to come to this country.
The same applies in the universities sector. At St Andrews—my university—about 20 per cent of the grants and 10 per cent of the staff come from the European Union, but people are thinking about not coming here because of the future uncertainty. People will think twice about making a long-term commitment to travel across Europe to go to a university in another country if they think that that country will not welcome them. They will not take the risk of uprooting their family for another part of the European Union. That is why our universities sector is under threat, too.
In relation to GPs, universities and farming, we see that the impact of tightening immigration will be felt in the wake of Brexit, yet the Scottish Conservatives stand up and tell us that that is not their policy. Well—I am afraid that it is their policy, because that is what they stood on in the Brexit campaign. The expectation is that, on the back of Brexit, there will be fewer foreigners in this country—no matter what the Conservatives said in the small print, that is the expectation; and that is the imagery—the symbols—that they sent out during the Brexit campaign. To stand here today and pretend that it is otherwise is to try to fool us, and we will not be fooled.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that this is not just a Scottish issue. Graeme Dey talked about workers down in England, picking apples in Cornwall for instance; and there are the daffodil pickers who start off on the south coast and work their way up to the north. Having a differentiated system will not necessarily solve the problem. What we need is a change of approach from the Conservative Government for the whole United Kingdom, so that universities in the whole United Kingdom, for example, can benefit. However, that is not what Jackson Carlaw is saying; he is defending a Conservative Government that is trying to drive down immigration in this country—which will hit our fruit and vegetable sector, our universities and our national health service—and he is backing the Conservative Government every step of the way.
Will the member take an intervention?
I am afraid that I do not have time to give way to Mr light-and-fluffy Carlaw, who is pretending to be something that he is not.
What we need to have is a proper debate about immigration in this country to ensure that we have the right level of immigrants coming in and working to grow our businesses, to defend our NHS, to care for our people in their homes and to ensure that we have a thriving economy. We will not get that with the Conservative Government.
Stuart McMillan is next, to be followed by Jamie Halcro Johnston.16:20
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
“We still do not know anything, because it is not clear to us that we have a right to reside here permanently. We want to know that we will not lose our houses, our jobs or our human rights here. We do not want to be treated differently. We have made so many contributions to this country and we do not want to be discriminated against.”—[Official Report, Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, 28 September 2017; c 24.]
Those are not my words but those of Katarzyna Slawek of the Fife Migrants Forum. Mr Stewart, who is not in the chamber now, said earlier that there is certainty for all the EU migrants who are living here and—
Just for the sake of fact, I point out that Mr Stewart is in the chamber. He was just moving around a little.
Okay. I will just carry on.
Sorry. That came out all wrong. [Laughter.]
Yes, it did. I will carry on.
Mr Stewart, who has now taken his seat again, said earlier that there is certainty for EU migrants and that they know what will happen to them post Brexit, but I urge him to talk to his constituents in the region that he represents and to people from the Fife Migrants Forum. He should listen to their concerns and to every word that they have to say about them. People from the Fife Migrants Forum came to one of our Parliament’s committees and told Parliament that they still do not know what will happen and that there is a huge amount of uncertainty for them. Mr Stewart is clearly not boasting to his constituents.
Also on that point, Mr Carlaw spoke earlier about economic policy. The Scottish Government’s motion states that the
“Scottish Government should continue to use its powers”
over the economy, and I think that the Scottish Parliament should continue to do that. In addition, the Conservatives’ amendment
“urges the Scottish Government to use its powers”.
However, Brexit will hamper the Scottish Government in carrying out the economic policies that we want to see in order to make Scotland a better and more prosperous country. Certainly, the narrative from the Conservatives in the debate, not just today but in recent months, has been hugely confusing, as Willie Rennie highlighted very well a few moments ago.
There are a few points that have already been touched on in the debate. I will not go over all of them, but there are a few that people and members need to consider. First, EU nationals working in Scotland contribute an average of £34,000 each every year, which amounts to £4.4 billion per year. The current employment rate for EU nationals in Scotland is 76.8 per cent, which is 3.8 per cent higher than the figure for Scots in employment. Almost two thirds of EU nationals here aged 16 and above are employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants, public administration, education, health, banking, finance and insurance; and over one third—36.7 per cent—of EU nationals here have a degree-level qualification or higher.
As a nation, Scotland is far richer for having here people of all nationalities, including EU migrants, but some people use language such as, “Send them all back where they came from.” If the EU migrants were sent back, Scotland’s population would immediately decline, the economy would suffer and our cultural appreciation and understanding would deteriorate. It is abundantly clear that EU migrants have a positive effect on our Scottish economy, culture, sporting activities and learning opportunities, to provide just a few examples.
Another aspect that migrants help with is health, as has been touched on today. At present, EU citizens fill vacancies in hard-to-fill specialisms in the health sector, where there are shortages. Recent figures released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council confirm that, since Brexit, the number of EU nurses and midwives who are registering to work in the UK is declining—and not just by a wee bit. As the minister said earlier, there has been a 96 per cent reduction in the number of people who are applying to come to the UK to work in the health service.
Today, the British Medical Association shared the findings of a recent study that it undertook, which indicated that one in five European doctors working in the NHS in the UK is already planning to leave Britain due to Brexit uncertainty and 45 per cent of EU doctors are considering leaving the UK. Thankfully, the figures for Scotland are not as bad, but 34 per cent of EU doctors are considering leaving and 14 per cent have already made plans to leave. That is little comfort to Scotland, and it is one of the aspects of the Tory Brexit shambles that we now have to deal with.
It is not just EU nationals who are concerned about the impact of Brexit; employers are also concerned. The Scottish Government’s recent publication, “Brexit: what’s at stake for businesses”, highlights the concerns of Scottish businesses about attracting and retaining EU staff, and their scepticism about replacing that workforce from UK sources.
I mentioned the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, which has received evidence from businesses as part of its immigration policy inquiry, including stats from, among others, Skills Development Scotland. It outlined the main sectors that would be affected by Brexit and noted that the food and drink industry is most at risk, as more than 10 per cent of the current workforce are EU nationals. Further, every year in Scotland, 12,800 vacancies arise in digital technology roles, which is a skills gap that is currently partly alleviated by the recruitment of European staff.
Brexit is an absolute shambles. It is important that, on the issue of immigration, the Scottish Parliament speaks with one voice to encourage people to stay here. We also need the UK Government to come to the table and to be clear that every single EU migrant is welcome to stay in Scotland because of what they contribute.16:27
Migration is an issue that cuts across a great deal of the work that we do in this chamber. Our population trends dictate how we deliver public services, whether communities are sustainable and how we plan for the future.
Migration into Scotland has been a force for good for much of our history. Individuals and communities have come from across the world and made Scotland their home, adding to the already existing diversity and richness of our culture. That is particularly the case in my region, the Highlands and Islands, which is now the preferred destination for many from the rest of the UK, the EU and around the world. Communities around the region are enriched by those who choose to make the Highlands and Islands their home and to bring their skills and experiences to a wide variety of sectors.
Will the member take an intervention?
I would like to get on, if that is okay with Mr Rennie.
The UK will always welcome skilled migrants who want to come here to work, study, learn and contribute to our national life, and that principle is already embedded in our immigration system. However, it is likely that changes will have to be made to reflect the interests of all parts of the UK.
There are a number of specific concerns. For example, we have heard much about the issue with seasonal employment, which affects rural areas around the UK. There has been initial discussion about how seasonal work, particularly in agriculture, should be accommodated in our immigration framework, and I note that NFU Scotland has shown its willingness to explore arrangements that go beyond the EU27 countries.
To approach the prospective issues in detail, we need a greater range of accurate data. The economic impact of migration changes can be accurately estimated only if we know the current flows of migration—where people are coming into our economy and where they might come from in the future—and how individual sectors are affected.
My Conservative colleagues have spoken from a national perspective, but I will talk about my region. As Rhoda Grant said, the story of the Highlands and Islands has traditionally been one of outward migration—not always voluntary, unfortunately—and we have long faced broader issues around depopulation. However, for a number of communities, that has become a reversing trend, though it remains a patchwork. Many of our issues spring from young people seeking to move away to other parts of Scotland or the rest of the UK. For many, the lack of opportunities in education or employment is not perceived but real. As a global city with a worldwide reach, London is an enormous part of Britain’s wider economy and, in Scotland, there is a considerable pull to the economic hub in the central belt. There we have some of the finest universities and other institutions of learning in the world, as well as some major employers.
These are not criticisms; we should welcome having on our doorstep a major global capital and thriving businesses and enterprises in cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. The whole country benefits from their success. However, pressures exist as a consequence. The sustainability of communities in the Highlands and Islands is something that we occasionally consider specifically, as we did recently when discussing community buy-outs, but it also needs to be examined in the round. Such discussions often come back to the same challenges that face many villages and towns across rural and remote parts of Scotland, such as how to retain and attract people to live and work locally.
Connectivity is a key to opening up rural Scotland as a place to live and do business. People who choose to stay or to move to rural Scotland need a home and the ability to participate in economic and social life. Therefore, technology might drive change in rural Scotland. Increasingly, we see distance working in businesses from one end of the country to the other, as well as businesses on one side of the globe supplying those on the other. That is why it is important that we get the roll-out of broadband right. Last year, the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report on Scotland’s demographics said:
“Broadband was identified by the Scottish Government as a key factor in determining the attractiveness of rural Scotland as a place to live. They said that a key to keeping young people in rural areas would ‘of course, be our broadband connections’”.
I welcome that commitment, but we need to see real results.
The vast majority of migrants to Scotland’s population are coming from outside the UK, and they are driving growth in the Scottish population, which is exacerbated in the Highlands. Having made all those points, which I agree with, does the member not think that it is difficult to square the circle of being in a party that wants to cut immigration while, in the Highlands, we desperately need immigration from outside the UK?
I am about to talk about the reasons for retaining people locally.
Nowhere are those results more important than in Scotland’s island communities. Yesterday, I met representatives from Orkney Islands Council, and I met representatives from Shetland Islands Council during the summer. Those councils recognise the importance of ensuring that life on the islands remains sustainable, which means providing either local public services or, at worst, good access to local services. It is true that not every service can be provided in every local community, but that is why transport connections to and from mainland Scotland are important—and transport connections within our island communities are almost more important.
Will the member take an intervention?
The member is in his final minute.
I want to move on.
The Scottish Government’s decision to treat Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council differently from how it treats other councils, by requiring them to contribute to the cost of internal ferries when similar councils do not, threatens local services within those council areas and access to those services for those who live on the islands. If a family who live on one of those islands cannot access a school for their children or a hospital when one of them is ill, or if they cannot care for their elderly when that is needed, that family will leave and others will join them in leaving, meaning that communities will shrink and become unsustainable.
Migration from around the world, from our neighbouring countries in Europe and from within the United Kingdom will be important for the future of many communities in Scotland. However, simply asserting how welcoming we are is not sufficient; we need a Scottish Government that is willing to take on the challenges that have been outlined today. We need real action on the issues that many of our rural communities face, and we need to stand against actions that will make Scotland unattractive or make living in Scotland’s remote communities almost impossible.16:33
Scotland’s population has been in relative decline for the past 300 years, and that trend has been partially reversed only in the past decade. In 1700, 20 per cent of the population of Great Britain resided in Scotland. By 1900, that proportion had reduced to 13 per cent. In my lifetime, it has reduced from 10 per cent to barely 8 per cent today.
Net emigration from Scotland has been the key characteristic of our demographics for centuries. Fully 8 million current residents of the rest of the UK are said to be descendants of Scots, and the pattern of Scots settling in other countries across Europe, the Commonwealth and further afield is well documented.
In absolute terms, Scotland’s population in 2000, at around 5 million, was almost the same as it was 100 years earlier, at the end of the Victorian era. That timeframe saw a doubling of the populations of other comparable countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden, among others.
A determination to reverse that long-term trend through the policies of the Scottish Parliament has done much to help us to turn the corner. A key part of that success story has been the influx of new Scots, the largest proportion of whom have come from the new EU member states since the 2004 accession.
That trend is essential to Scotland’s economic success in future decades, but it is now at risk as a consequence of the UK Government’s decision to pursue a hard Brexit. Leaving the single market and ending the free movement of labour across the EU will end at a stroke the main route for recent immigration that has been so beneficial to Scotland’s economy and society.
A key consequence of net emigration from Scotland has been a demographic profile that is not helpful to our future economic growth and public sector finances. Scotland’s ageing population needs young working people to pay taxes to fund pensions, and it needs the dynamism of young immigrants to drive forward our economy as they have done in past decades and centuries. Although emigration has been dramatic over the centuries, waves of immigrants into Scotland have gone some limited way towards mitigating its worst effects. As a consequence, Scotland is a healthy mix of descendants of people from all over the globe and a country that celebrates the strength that comes from that diversity. In that sense, many more of us are new Scots than may be obvious at first, and I count myself among that number. Of my eight great-grandparents, only two were born in Scotland.
The economic benefits of migration into Scotland are well documented. Each EU migrant working in Scotland adds an average of £34,000 to GDP, with consequent contributions to our tax base. The total GDP contribution of EU citizens living in Scotland adds up to more than £4 billion. Migrants contribute more to public sector finances than they take out, and, if someone encounters an EU national in our Scottish NHS, that person is far more likely to be a medical professional who is treating them than a fellow patient.
The diversity of Scotland’s population is not significant only for that direct economic impact, though. There are also the immeasurable benefits of the gain to Scotland’s international standing, prestige, reach and profile, which are critical to building business and cultural links in an increasingly internationalised economy. Immigrants from other countries maintain links with those countries, which are invaluable in building Scottish business and export links.
The critical impact on key sectors including agriculture, finance, manufacturing, education and our health service is also well understood. At a time when pressures on our health service arising from our ageing population mean that we require more and not fewer doctors and nurses, the BMA reports that 45 per cent of EU doctors who work in the UK are considering leaving and that 19 per cent have already made plans to go. The figures for Scotland are marginally better, but they are still extremely concerning, with 34 per cent considering leaving and 14 per cent having already made plans to do so.
The numbers tell a powerful story, but the message or the mood music that is conveyed by the debate is also hugely important. What EU migrants who are living in the UK hear is that they are no longer welcome, and that message comes from the top—from UK Government politicians who set that tone. People hear that message in Warsaw as much as they hear it in Wishaw, and the number of EU citizens who plan to come to Scotland in key skill sectors is already significantly down. The damage is already being done.
The months of prevarication and the inability of the UK Government to offer clarity to EU citizens are not some clever negotiating wheeze but a dramatic own goal. Regardless of where the Brexit deal ends up, it will be difficult to rebuild bridges with EU nationals who are already here and those whom we would hope to persuade to come here.
The impact of the drop in the value of sterling since the Brexit vote should also not be underestimated. Why should people come here when a less risky, more secure, more welcoming and more profitable option exists in other western European countries?
The importance of the message that we send out from this Parliament and the steps that the Scottish Government can take to reassure EU nationals should not be underestimated. We say to EU citizens who are living and working in Scotland, “We value your contribution to our economy and our society.” We say to EU countries and their current residents who are thinking of emigrating, “Scotland is a welcoming country and your skills will be valued here.” We say to the UK Government, “Wake up and realise the economic damage you are doing to Scotland and to the UK.” If it is not going to reverse its damaging immigration policies, it should at least allow us, in Scotland, to implement our own policies to protect our economy.
We move to the closing speeches.16:39
When baked Alaskas and flat sponges are thrown around in the chamber as insults, we can tell that MSPs have been spending far too much time watching “The Great British Bake Off”.
I am very pleased to be a closing speaker in the debate, and I welcome the opportunity in the chamber to discuss migration.
My mother emigrated from Glasgow to Hong Kong, where I was born, so it could be said that I am a migrant to Scotland. Scots are to be found in every corner of the world, and we welcome people to this country from across the world, but it is true that Brexit has implications for all of us. In some areas, we can only begin to estimate the impact on businesses, our economy and individuals. This is a time of huge uncertainty, but we can be clear about the impact that Brexit will have on the labour market in Scotland. Some 181,000 EU nationals live in Scotland. The majority of them are Polish; they are followed by the Irish and Spanish nationals. I will speak about specific sectors in a moment.
I agree with the minister’s and Jackson Carlaw’s comments about the population. We know that Scotland’s population is likely to decline if we do nothing. Unfortunately, we are also ageing. We are a more rapidly ageing population than the population elsewhere in the UK, so we depend on inward migration to meet our population growth target. If that migration is absent and EU nationals are not able to come here, our population will inevitably decline, with all the impact that that will have. That would not be good for our economy. It would lead to shortages in key industry sectors and public services.
Let me touch on some of the most affected sectors, which members across the chamber have covered. The soft fruit industry relies on seasonal labour and the majority of its employees come from the EU. That industry has grown substantially in the past 20 years and it contributes over £1 billion to the UK economy. We cannot afford to lose it.
The hospitality sector would experience a double whammy in losing employees from the EU, who make up a significant element of the workforce, and visitors from the EU. That would have a material effect on the industry and our GDP.
Other members have covered the health and education sectors. If we consider universities alone, we see that EU nationals comprise 9 per cent of students and almost 25 per cent of research staff. We risk losing talented European staff and academics. Nobody can tell me that that would not be bad for the education sector and our economy. A University and College Union survey of more than 1,000 lecturers and professors suggested that up to three quarters of continental EU academics in the country have said that they are now more likely to leave the UK.
Has Jackie Baillie not made the case that the problem is UK-wide and that we should have solidarity on it with the rest of the UK?
Mike Rumbles knows that I always have solidarity with the rest of the United Kingdom, but he should look at the evidence, which tells us that there is a greater percentage of academics from the European Union in Scotland than there is in the rest of the UK. That makes the argument for a differential system in Scotland. I hope that Mike Rumbles reads that evidence.
We know that our NHS relies on staff from the EU. We heard from the minister, Rhoda Grant and others about the impact on nurses, that there has been a 96 per cent drop in nurses who want to come to Scotland, that vacancy rates are up, and that one in five doctors is thinking about leaving. Willie Rennie was right to point out the hypocrisy of the Conservatives on GP vacancies. Brexit and the lack of response on migration are contributing to driving doctors out of the country.
It is not just about people not coming here; EU nationals who already live and work here are leaving. As Mairi Gougeon rightly highlighted, they are doing so because they do not feel welcome here, they have no certainty about the future, and they do not know whether they will be able to access public services for their families.
Let me turn to what we can do. We should have a differentiated immigration system that can be linked to specific sectors. We have had a differentiated system before with the fresh talent scheme, and we can do so again. My colleague Lewis Macdonald suggested a range of initiatives that we could undertake, which I commend to the minister. The Scottish Government could codify the rights of migrants and ensure access to services. We could do more to promote Scotland to migrants using the trade network that is being developed overseas. The appointment of Scottish members to the Migration Advisory Committee would be helpful, as would developing a fresh talent 2 initiative and more besides.
We need to agree those initiatives—whatever they may be—with slightly more urgency. We also need to apply that approach to UK nationals living in the rest of the EU. People need certainty. The UK and the Scottish Governments need to set aside their differences in the interests of the economy, our public services and individuals. We should be an opening and welcoming nation, but Brexit is challenging that perception.
I urge those members opposite who have an influence on the UK Government to use that influence in Scotland’s interest and to create a differentiated migration system that works for all of Scotland.16:45
First, I declare a personal interest in the area of migration: I have lived and worked in five different countries across the world and had the privilege of seeing at first hand the cultural, social and economic benefits that migration offers.
The significant benefits of migration here in Scotland have been highlighted by members across the chamber. A very important message for this Parliament to send out is that we welcome migrants to Scotland, we value their significant contribution and we welcome the diversity that they bring to our society.
The minister opened the debate by reminding us that Scotland’s population would be in decline in the absence of migration. Jackson Carlaw highlighted that migration plays a critical role in addressing the ageing demographics in Scotland and offered up the image of an up-ended pyramid to describe what our population profile might resemble without migration.
Migrants coming to Scotland play a vital role in addressing the skills gap, as Lewis Macdonald explained, by providing seasonal workers for different sectors, including hospitality and rural industries, as we heard from Rachael Hamilton, and helping to meet labour shortages in particular geographical areas such as the Highlands and Islands, as Rhoda Grant mentioned.
Jamie Halcro Johnston made an important observation when he said that, in the context of Brexit and a rapidly changing economy, we need to understand where migrants arriving in Scotland are coming from and how that might change. Based on the latest available numbers, 42 per cent of migrants come to Scotland from the rest of the UK and 25 per cent come from the EU. Since 2010, recent trends have seen a drop in levels of EU migration to Scotland. The figures also show that 12 per cent of migrants are from Commonwealth countries and 22 per cent come from the rest of the world.
The numbers are important because they show the diversity in the origin of migrants. That diversity is to be welcomed, particularly when Europe is experiencing significant demographic challenges—over the next 25 years, Europe is projected to be the only continent whose population will decline. The migration numbers also show and emphasise how important the UK single market is for Scotland. That market accounts for 63 per cent of Scotland’s trade; the rest of the UK is also the origin for almost half of Scotland’s inward migration.
The consensus across the chamber is that migration will continue to play a critical role in Scotland’s future.
If there is consensus across the chamber, is there consensus in the member’s party? His Prime Minister says that the value of immigration is “close to zero”? Does he agree with us or her?
That is, as Mr Rennie knows, a selective quote. We are having a debate in the Scottish Parliament about the value of migration in Scotland and the system that we need. The Scottish Conservatives are calling for an immigration system that is fair, balances the interests of the economy and those of migrants, is not unduly uncomplicated and is tailored to meet industry and sectoral needs in Scotland and the UK. Therefore, we cannot agree with the Scottish Government’s call for a separate immigration system for Scotland.
We have listened to the views that have been expressed by leading organisations across Scotland that a differentiated system is unnecessary and unworkable, and would damage the economy.
The member will be aware that we have a differentiated immigration system: the post-study work visa. That system was adopted across the UK, but now remains in place only for certain English universities. Given that we already have that differentiated situation, is it not right that Scotland should be making its own decisions?
The post-study work visa is a particular issue. We agree that we should explore options and possibly look at how we could reintroduce it at some stage.
Let me return to the commentary, from leading organisations in Scotland, on a differentiated immigration system. The Food and Drink Federation Scotland raised concerns about the increased cost and complexity of such a system and the potential problems for migrants who relocate elsewhere in the UK. The views of such organisations reflect the reality that, on the whole, Scotland’s immigration needs are similar to those of the rest of the UK. That is reflected in the UK-wide tier 2 shortage occupation list, which lists 34 occupational categories for which there is a UK-wide shortage. The separate and additional Scotland-only list, which shows occupations with a particular shortage in Scotland, lists only two occupations. In other words, Scotland has the same labour shortages as the rest of the UK in 34 out of 36 occupational categories, which is not exactly a compelling case for differentiation.
Instead of calling for unnecessary additional powers, our amendment calls for the Scottish Government to make full use of existing powers to grow the economy, to make Scotland a more economically attractive destination, and to reduce the number of economically inactive people in Scotland, which currently stands at 730,000. Retraining a fraction of those people and bringing them into the workplace would go a long way towards meeting any potential labour shortages.
We also call on the Scottish Government to abandon plans further to increase income tax in Scotland. Disposable incomes in Scotland are already lower than those in the rest of the UK. One in five people in Scotland pays more tax than those in the rest of the UK. I will answer the question that the minister asked earlier. Yes—tax increases will discourage the inward migration of skilled workers if they can be paid more elsewhere in the UK. It will also encourage existing skilled workers in Scotland to look elsewhere, as they are punished financially by the Scottish National Party.
I support the amendment in Jackson Carlaw’s name, and urge the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government to achieve a migration policy that will meet the sectoral needs of industry across Scotland and the UK.
I call Alasdair Allan to close the debate for the Scottish Government. Minister, you have until 4.59, please.16:51
I welcome the debate that we have just had. I am sure that in their constituencies, every member in the chamber will have EU citizens as well as businesses that are concerned about the potential impact of Brexit on their workforce. Many members will also have raised cases about the migration status of individual constituents who have made a commitment to live, raise their families and make a future here.
I believe—as do members across the chamber, I think—that inward migration has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Scotland’s economy and society. There was widespread agreement on that much. However, I am afraid that, once members on the Conservative benches started to speak beyond those generalities, I genuinely had to throw away my optimistic closing speech that was full of glowing commendations for them on their rational approach.
The evidence that has been published demands to be read. It shows that EU migration to Scotland is essential for ensuring sustainable population growth. I feel the need to re-emphasise the point that 100 per cent of our population growth over the next 10 years in Scotland will come from migration. If net migration to the UK falls, Scotland’s population growth will be disproportionately affected. That is a challenge that is distinctive to Scotland. The UK position is very different. As I and others have said, only 54 per cent of the UK’s population increase is expected to come from overseas migration. Therefore our needs are different from those of the UK as a whole. The debate that we are having in Scotland is distinctive. Our focus is on sustaining and growing our communities—especially our rural communities. We need population growth to meet that aim, and we need migration to sustain it. As Ross Greer and many others pointed out, that means that, on that issue, we can and must take a different approach from the approaches that are taken in different parts of the UK.
EU migration supports our economy in different ways. It ensures the availability of workers both now—
Excuse me, minister. Mr Kelly, you are putting on a wee performance there. Do you think that you could do it more discreetly? Thank you. [Laughter.]
I want to mention one or two specific contributions to the debate. Kate Forbes spoke eloquently about the situation in the Highlands and Islands, about the human impact of Brexit on families who are unable to make plans for themselves—and sometimes unable to live together—and about how migration fits into the wider economic strategy that we need to deal with rural depopulation.
Mr Carlaw pointed out that hospitality is not mentioned in the Government’s motion. The UK hospitality sector is more heavily hit than other sectors; I accept the point that he made in that regard. The Scottish Government has expressed its concerns to the Migration Advisory Committee. It is regrettable that that committee’s UK-level report will be produced after the UK immigration bill is likely to be introduced, so it is difficult to see how the Migration Advisory Committee will have a direct impact on policy. Nonetheless, we seek to engage with it, specifically on the issues to do with the hospitality sector that Mr Carlaw raised.
Joan McAlpine talked about the impact on families, and Graeme Dey and Willie Rennie expanded on that, talking about what European citizens actually feel and say about all this—something that is often overlooked in the debate. Mr Dey has been taking soundings in the agriculture sector, and I have sought to do likewise across Scotland.
At one point in the debate, the rights of UK citizens elsewhere in the EU were raised almost as if that issue was an argument against the debate’s focus on EU citizens. We absolutely agree that we need to protect the rights of UK citizens who live elsewhere in the EU, but let me say, very gently, that bracing ourselves for the impact of a no-deal Brexit is perhaps not the way to do that.
Mr Rumbles and a number of other members, including Mr Lewis Macdonald, asked what is different about the situation in Scotland. I can give a one-word answer: demographics. We have 4.5 per cent unemployment in Scotland, and we all work hard to provide the skills and jobs that are needed, but with such a small pool we simply cannot meet the skills shortage, and we certainly cannot do so if we do not have an open and welcoming attitude towards migrants.
The point that I made in an intervention was that this is a UK-wide problem, which needs to be solved on a UK-wide basis. The problem is hitting Scotland, but problems are also hitting England and Wales.
I would never deny that these are problems for England and Wales, too, but I am pleased that almost all parties in the debate have recognised that Scotland needs to do something different if we are to solve our distinctive bit of the problem. For instance, the all-party parliamentary group on social integration at Westminster believes that immigration should be devolved. I take it that the member’s party is represented on the group.
The University of Oxford’s migration observatory was prayed in aid by a number of Conservatives in today’s debate. I point out that the migration observatory says that the arguments against sub-national visas are political, rather than economic.
I want to conclude on the point about distinctiveness. The reason why we cannot support the Tory amendment is, I am afraid, that its language calls to mind the very unfortunate remarks of Ruth Davidson—I believe that she made them on 17 May—when she described Scotland as “uniquely unattractive” to people from other countries. That was about as unhelpful a remark as it is possible to imagine, if we are trying to attract people to live here.
I heard the arguments that were made in favour of the amendment, but I think that rational people will conclude from what members said about our demographics that the situation is different in Scotland. Rachael Hamilton said that Scotland faces “democratic challenges”. I accept that that was a Freudian slip, and she went on to say that we face a demographic challenge. We certainly do, and if we are to address that demographic challenge we have to be open to people coming to live here from other countries.
I hope that that was the tenor of today’s debate. It is why the debate was held today, and it is why I commend the motion to the Parliament and hope that its sentiments receive widespread support.