Foreword from Jenny Gilruth MSP, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development
Scotland has a proud history as a country which welcomes people of all nationalities, and supporting their integration into our Scottish society. This history takes on even more importance in light of increasingly restrictive immigration policies imposed by the Home Office, that focus on arbitrarily reducing net migration irrespective of the value non-UK citizens may bring, skills shortages they could address, and the impact they could make to our economy and society.
Our previous responses to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) highlight the substantive contributions of non-UK citizens who have chosen to make Scotland their home, and we have been consistent in our arguments for the devolution of immigration powers to ensure that we best meet the needs of new Scots and their families. In August 2020, we responded to the MAC's call for a review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), despite the challenging deadline and timing of the consultation, during a time of change and uncertainty amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and plans for a radically changed migration system by January 2021.
I was therefore disappointed that this consultation, on the Intra-Company Transfer route, was again carried out whilst migration levels were largely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and before the full impact of reduced EU mobility could be felt by sectors across Scotland.
This paper provides detailed evidence on needs of businesses and individuals across Scotland, who have potential for use of the ICT route. 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 clarify our position that the ICT route should be retained in order to provide rapid mobilisation of international workers to meet the needs of businesses in Scotland. Any move that limits migration, has the potential to seriously harm Scotland's economy, exacerbated by the fact that the ICT route is crucial for many key industries in Scotland. If anything, in light of the loss of free movement, the route has become more important. Scotland should be a leading destination for inward investment, and in order to aid this, it is our view that the skills threshold should be lower, to bring it in line with the Skilled Worker route.
As an economy, Scotland needs the inward flow of people, not just to support our businesses and services, but to provide diversity and vibrancy to our communities. Our substantive evidence illustrates Scotland's requirement for the retention of the ICT route, to ensure that we are flexible and responsive to the needs of our stakeholders and our people, regardless of where they have come from.
The 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 is heavily influenced by conditions in the south east of England. Scotland's differing demographic and migration needs mean that the current UK immigration system has not supported Scotland's migration priorities. Independence would give put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands and allow us to make different choices on immigration.