Shortage occupation list 2018: call for evidence - our response

Our response to the UK Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on the shortage occupation list.

Ministerial Foreword

Scotland is an open, outward-looking and welcoming country. We recognise and highly value the remarkable contributions that people from around the world have made and currently make to Scotland. 

In October 2017 we published the detailed evidence we had submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee earlier that year, setting out the positive impact of EEA migration on Scotland’s economy, public services and communities. The Migration Advisory Committee’s subsequent report in September 2018 on EEA migration also provided strong evidence about the financial contribution of EEA migration. 

Given this clear evidence about the economic benefits of migration the recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee and proposals in the UK Government’s Immigration White Paper are deeply disappointing.  

The economic case for migration was clearly articulated in the Scottish Government’s evidence to the Committee and in our Discussion Paper on Scotland’s Population Needs and Migration Policy published in February 2018, as well as the Committee’s own report on EEA migration.  However, migration is about more than economics. It is about individuals and families: people who have chosen to build their lives in Scotland and who are part of Scotland’s future.    

The Scottish Government is clear that continuing free movement of people is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK as a whole. Free movement has allowed people to come to Scotland and make a significantly positive contribution, and has allowed our own citizens to travel, work and live across the EU. In contrast, the proposals set out in the UK Government’s Immigration White Paper could reduce the number of workers in Scotland by up to 5% over the next two years. This shift would be deeply damaging for our economy, our public services and future population growth.

The UK Government’s Immigration White Paper and their consultation on the Shortage Occupation List differentiates between ‘high skill’ and ‘low skill’ migration with salary and qualifications serving as a measure of an individual’s skill level. The Scottish Government considers that this approach is fundamentally flawed as it does not recognise or appreciate those in many roles that may be defined as ‘low skill’ under such measures but who in reality make very significant contributions. Salary level is not an appropriate measure of value to society.

This paper provides detailed evidence on recruitment needs across the Scottish economy as well as outlining how the Shortage Occupation List could be made more flexible and responsive to the needs of the Scottish economy and public service delivery. These changes should include a specific role for the Scottish Government in commissioning and determining what occupations are in shortage in Scotland.   

Ben Macpherson
Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development



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