Risk of growing staff shortages after Brexit, says minister

A shortage of skilled workers across Scotland could worsen after Brexit, it has been suggested.

The Scottish Government has submitted evidence to Westminster’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to highlight the country’s recruitment needs ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Scotland’s migration minister, Ben Macpherson, said the submission illustrates the challenges in retaining and recruiting staff.

The UK’s Immigration White Paper has been a point of contention since its publication in December last year, with opponents criticising the decision to impose a minimum salary threshold of £30,000.

In Scotland, the average wage is significantly lower – estimated to be around £18,000 – raising concerns that it could cause a decrease in the flow of workers from EU and EEA countries.

Mr Macpherson said a ‘Shortage Occupation List’ for Scotland, compiled by the UK Government on the advice of the MAC and which details jobs currently lacking sufficiently trained professionals in the labour market, should also be adjusted to better fit the country’s needs.

“We’ve argued for some time that there should be a specific role for the Scottish Government in commissioning and determining what occupations are in shortage in Scotland,” said the minister.

“The fact that there is an additional Shortage Occupation List for Scotland shows that the UK Government recognises to some extent that a one-size-fits-all approach to migration is not appropriate for Scotland.

“The evidence we’ve published today shows how the list could be expanded to go some way to meeting the needs of business and public services here.

“However, even if adjustments are made to the Shortage Occupation List for Scotland, the UK Government’s Immigration White Paper will still have significantly damaging implications for Scotland.

“That is why, as well as adjusting the Shortage Occupation List for Scotland, there is increasing interest in creating tailored immigration solutions for Scotland within a UK framework.

“I will continue to press the UK Government to consider additional mechanisms to address the particular needs of Scotland as we engage with them on the proposals in their White Paper.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “Our future skills-based immigration system is designed to drive up wages and productivity across the UK economy, including in Scotland, and support businesses, communities and our public services.

“It will help us attract the talented workers we need while delivering on the referendum result and ending free movement. The Temporary Worker route is open to all skill levels and will ensure UK employers have the staff they need, including seasonal workers.

“We want to understand the specific needs of the whole of the UK, which is why we are engaging with business, devolved administrations and the public about our plans throughout 2019.”

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