Ian Blackford has said that Boris Johnson is “utterly delusional” over the impact of his immigration plans on Scotland.
The SNP’s Westminster leader reiterated his party’s calls for the introduction of a Scottish visa system as a measure to offset the potential damage of the UK’s new points-based system.
Mr Blackford told Mr Johnson that immigration is “crucial” for the Scottish economy, pointing to backing from businesses and charities for a Scottish visa to be brought in.
He said: “This week we learned that 40% of small businesses in Scotland employ more than one EU national.
“Immigration is crucial for Scotland’s economy so it’s no wonder that the Scottish Government’s proposals for a Scottish visa system have been universally welcomed by businesses and charities alike. Even the Scottish Tories think it’s a good idea.
“The Prime Minister rejected these proposals within a few short hours. Does he now admit this was a mistake?”
Mr Johnson responded: “It was not only I who rejected the proposal, but also of course the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and that is because we are bringing forward a very sensible proposal which the people of this country have long desired whereby we take back control of our immigration system with a points-based system.
“And we will ensure, because (Mr Blackford) has important concerns to raise, we will ensure that everywhere in this country, all businesses, all agricultural sectors, all the fishing communities of this country will be able to access the labour and the workforce that they need under our points-based system.
“But what will be the height of insanity would be to proceed with the SNP’s solution of a border at Berwick between England and Scotland.”
Mr Blackford said: “Once again the Prime Minister shows he’s utterly delusional.
“Let’s look at the reality – Scottish Care has said that the Prime Minister’s damaging immigration plans shut the door on enabling people to be cared for in their own home.
“The general secretary of the GMB Union says the plans could genuinely tip businesses over the edge. Scotland’s National Farmers’ Union has said their evidence has been disregarded – disregarded by the UK Government.
“And the Scottish Tourism Alliance say their plans will have a devastating impact for Scotland’s workforce. We know senior figures in the UK Government have said what the Scottish Parliament decides, and I quote, ‘doesn’t matter one jot’.
“If the Prime Minister thinks the Scottish Parliament doesn’t matter, do Scottish businesses matter, Prime Minister?”
Mr Johnson said: “Of course Scottish businesses matter and the way to do well by Scottish businesses would not be to tax them with the highest tax rates in the UK.
“It would be to run a sound economy in Scotland, it would be to have an educational system that doesn’t leave Scottish children lagging behind through no fault of their own.
“This Government will get on and deliver a working immigration system for the whole of this country and I may say, respectfully, to (Mr Blackford) who shouts at me from a sedentary position, that once again he would be better off getting on with delivering for the people of Scotland rather than continue with his ceaseless and vain quest to break up the United Kingdom, because he will not succeed.”