SNP MSP Ruth Maguire has backed proposals for a new Scottish Visa to address depopulation and cut skills gaps in North Ayrshire set to be made worse by Brexit.

Under plans announced by the First Minister, migrants who want to live in Scotland could choose to apply for a Scottish Visa, or one of the existing immigration routes offered by the UK Government.

All of Scotland’s population growth for the next 25 years is projected to come from migration. However, new UK Government immigration controls and the end of free movement after Brexit are expected to exacerbate the risk of skills gaps and labour shortages in Scotland.

Without migration, North Ayrshire could face a demographic crisis that could hammer public services like the NHS – with an ageing population leaving Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers.

Westminster dismissed the plans out of hand, stating that “immigration will remain a reserved matter”.

A range of stakeholder groups have backed the Scottish Government’s plan for a devolved Scottish visa system – piling pressure on the UK government to engage seriously with the proposals.

Support for the proposals include the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Farmers Union Scotland, and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry. 

A cross-party report by Holyrood’s Finance Committee found that, without additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, Scottish public spending may be put at risk by demographic changes.

Cunninghame South MSP Ruth Maguire said:

“Brexit, and the end of freedom of movement, poses a huge risk to our economy and public services in North Ayrshire.

“It is vital for North Ayrshire’s future prosperity that we continue to attract people to live and work here. Migrants make hugely valuable contributions to our economy, public services, and communities – and that must continue.

“The Home Office dismissive attitude to the Scottish Government’s forward-looking plan for a devolved Scottish visa system could not be a clearer warning for anyone expecting anything different.

“The one-size-fits-all approach by the UK government ignores Scotland’s needs and could put our ability to fund public services like the NHS at risk.

“UK government proposals to end freedom of movement and put in place inappropriate salary and skills requirements for all migrants would be disastrous for our economy and society and would risk acute labour shortages.

“These sensible Scottish Government proposals, in line with other regional migration systems such as in Canada and Australia, would give us the ability to create a system which secures the future prosperity of North Ayrshire.

“If the UK government refuse to deliver that plan it will yet again underline the urgent need for Scotland to take these decisions for ourselves.”

Holyrood’s Finance & Constitution Committee warns of strong evidence of a demographic risk to the size of Scottish budget

Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper