MSPs have voted to call on the UK government to reform the immigration system to tackle the impact of labor shortages on the economy.
A motion tabled in Parliament by Treasury Secretary Kate Forbes was approved by 68 votes to 55.
Ms. Forbes claims that the impact of the Brexit-linked pandemic has created the bottlenecks that have, among other things, impacted food deliveries and strained the supply chain in recent months.
The Treasury Secretary told Holyrood that it would take 19 inquiries before Immigration Secretary Kevin Foster agreed to a meeting.
“We need action, we need the UK government’s commitment – we need a migration system that works for Scotland,” she said.
“Yet it is clear that the immigration system does not meet the needs of Scottish businesses and the wider Scottish economy.”
She added, “Immigration affects our economies, our public services and our communities and we need a commitment to real continued engagement and we need migration policies that are tailored to Scotland’s particular needs.”
Previous attempts by the Scottish government to push for change, including the proposal of a bespoke immigration system for Scotland in early 2020, have been flatly rejected by the UK government.
Ms Forbes also called on the UK government to set up a task force to address the shortage in the labor market.
Figures released last year in a survey by the Royal Bank of Scotland found that September the number of permanent applicants was the second lowest since records began in 2008.
Scottish Tory MSP Liz Smith admitted that Brexit had an impact on labor shortages, but added that it was not the cause of all problems in the labor market.
“I think there is enough evidence that some of the current problems existed long before Brexit – long before Covid, in fact – because one only needs to take a cursory look at the evidence that is being presented to this Parliament’s finance committee.” by bodies like the Scottish Fiscal Commission or the Fraser of Allander Institute to acknowledge that there are far more profound problems here, ”she said.
The Scottish government, Ms Smith said, has refused to listen to companies and take action to implement issues such as closing the skills gap, increasing the number of apprenticeships and helping employers to upgrade and retrain employees.
An amendment tabled by Ms Smith to the motion, which was rejected by 30 votes to 93, aimed to remove any mention of Brexit from the government’s motion.
Labor MEP Paul Sweeney agreed that Brexit should not be seen as the sole cause of labor shortages, adding: “While the pandemic may have exposed these fragilities, they are in part caused by the underlying lack of an industrial strategy – one that “supports further qualification, increases productivity and makes strategic public investments.”