MSPs have voted to urge the UK government to reform the immigration system after noticing the impact of worker shortages on the economy.
A motion by finance secretary Kate Forbes passed by 68 votes to 55 in the Scottish Parliament.
The SNP politician argued the Covid pandemic together with Brexit caused shortages which impacted various sectors in recent months, such as food deliveries.
19 requests until Tory immigration minister agreed to meet Scottish MSP
Forbes told the Scottish Parliament that it took 19 requests before Tory immigration minister Kevin Foster agreed to meet.
She said: “We need action, we need engagement from the UK Government – we need a migration system that works for Scotland.
“And yet, it is clear the immigration system is not meeting Scottish businesses’ and the wider Scottish economy’s needs.”
She added: “Immigration impacts on our economy, on our public services and on our communities and we need a commitment to genuine ongoing engagement and we need a migration policy that’s tailored to Scotland’s distinct needs.”
Forbes asked the UK government to set up a task force in order to tackle labour shortages, according to PA news agency.
Tory MSP admits Brexit adds to shortages – but wants to scrap mention
The Scottish government has previously proposed a tailored immigration system for Scotland at the beginning of 2020, but was rejected out of hand by the Tories in Westminster.
But figures revealed by Royal Bank of Scotland revealed that the number of permanent job applicants in September 2021 was at its second lowest since records started – 14 years ago.
Scottish Tory MSP Liz Smith insisted Brexit is not the only reason for labour market problems – and then proceeded to put forward a motion to remove any mention of Brexit from the Scottish government motion. Her amendment fell by 30 to 93 votes.
“I think there is plenty of evidence to hand to demonstrate that several of the current problems existed long before Brexit – long before Covid, indeed,” she said, arguing there are “far more deep-seated problems at stake”.
Smith shifted the blame from Westminster to the Scottish government, arguing the SNP failed to listen to businesses and put in place measures to close the skills gap, increase apprenticeships and help employers train workers.
Labour MSP Paul Sweeney agreed Brexit is not the only reason why there are labour shortages, adding: “While the pandemic may have exposed those fragilities, they are, in part, caused by an underlying lack of an industrial strategy – one that underpins upskilling, increases productivity and makes strategic public investments.”
UK businesses affected by Brexit with lack of EU migrants as key concern
Meanwhile, UK manufacturers warned Brexit will add to rising costs, amid a cry for EU migrants.
Make UK, an industry body representing 20,000 manufacturing firms across the country, said Brexit’s effects undermined optimism among its members and the changes it involves amount to a “possible death of the just-in-time supply chain business model”.
Two-thirds of companies worry about delays and red tape this year and admitted that Brexit has moderately or significantly affected their business since the transition period ended last January.
In the 2022 MakeUK/PwC senior executive survey, company leaders said Brexit is one of their biggest concerns – with key issues being a lack of access to EU migrants, additional costs to meet different regulatory aspects and delays at customs.