Foreword from Jenny Gilruth MSP, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development
Scotland welcomes people from all over the world, not only for their contribution to our economy and society, but for the diversity they bring to our communities. Sadly, the UK Government's increasingly restrictive immigration policies undermine our approach, with one clear impact being the increased risk of skills shortages that damage our economy and the essential services the people of Scotland rely on.
Our previous responses to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) highlighted the substantive contributions of non-UK citizens who have chosen to make Scotland their home. Scottish Government has been consistent in its arguments for the devolution of immigration powers to ensure that we best meet the needs of new Scots and their families.
The timing of this consultation has been particularly challenging given the strain on the Social Care system dealing with COVID and the recovery. The chaos caused by forcing through a hard Brexit in the middle of a pandemic will, necessarily, impact on the quality and comparability of evidence available to the MAC for their study. The Scottish Government, experts, businesses and representative organisations have repeatedly warned the UK Government of the damage their immigration plans would inflict on Scotland in the face of the continuing COVID-19 challenges when the stresses and strains on our social care system remain greater than ever before.
Care professionals from all over the world have played a vital role in caring for our communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Scotland welcomes those staff and will do all it can to ensure they continue to build their lives in Scotland. This paper provides detailed evidence on the impact of the ending of freedom of movement on adult social care in Scotland. We have collected evidence from stakeholders with bases in Scotland, and used previous submissions to the MAC and analysis from the independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population to demonstrate the devastating impact that Brexit has had on the social care sector in Scotland and how, combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to the immigration system have left the provision of social care services in a deeply precarious position.
It is clear that, within the current constitutional framework, the UK Government must urgently rethink their immigration plans to ensure that they meet the needs of the social care sector in Scotland. This response sets out the urgent actions that the UK government must take to address the acute shortage of social care workers we face, as well as the medium and long-term changes that must be made to go some way to improving a broken immigration system within a UK framework suffering from the absence of free movement.
Notwithstanding, Scottish Government continues to believe that the best future for Scotland is as an independent country in the European Union, enjoying the full benefits of membership including freedom of movement. Amongst the many benefits of free movement of people is the opportunity it gives our young people to visit, work and study in other European countries and to engage in mutual exchange with those who come here, and the scope to share ideas and expertise, which promotes innovation and increases productivity.
One of the major gains from independence for Scotland will be responsibility for our own immigration policy. The policy of successive Westminster Governments for the whole of the UK takes no account of Scotland's differing demographic and migration needs and means that the current UK immigration system has not supported Scotland's migration priorities. Independence will put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands and allow us to make different choices on immigration to benefit the people of this country.
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