105. The ICT route should be retained in order to provide rapid mobilisation of international workers to meet business needs. Brexit has already had a damaging impact on our economy and the Scottish Government believe that the loss of freedom of movement will significantly undermine the Scottish economy over coming years and decades. Without freedom of movement, the UK immigration system should be as close to replicating it as possible. The valuable role that migrants play in our society has been highlighted by the current COVID-19 crisis.
106. It is the Scottish Government's view that, whilst usage of the visa has declined in recent months, the ICT route should be retained in order to provide rapid mobilisation of international workers to meet business needs. The evidence from Scottish stakeholders is that the ICT route has been underutilised during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has stymied the requirement for this route. Additionally, we have not seen the impact of Brexit upon Scotland's labour market during the pandemic. Once the economy begins to open up, we will begin to see the detrimental impact of the loss of freedom of movement upon Scotland's businesses. ICTs are crucial for many industries such as IT, Oil and Gas and renewables sectors and the route has arguably become more important in a post-Brexit context. Therefore the route should be retained to continue to provide the responsiveness often required by business but lacking across the other visa categories of the UK points-based immigration system.
107. The ICT route is an important benefit on offer to multinationals wanting to establish a European base and contributes to Scottish Government objectives for Scotland to be a leading destination for inward investment aligned with our values as a nation. Our view is that regional variation should be explored within this route. At the very least, the salary threshold should be lowered to £25,600 for intra-company transfers and £20,480 for intra-company graduate trainees in line with Skilled Worker applications for established workers and new entrants
108. Feedback from stakeholders in the IT & Financial Services sector who rely on talent from India and Eastern Europe is that the ability to use allowances allows them to meet the minimum salary threshold as these countries typically have lower base salaries. This also means for any time when they hold the ICT visa and are not in the UK, the sponsor is not obliged to pay them the minimum rates required for the visa. Stakeholders also indicated that they preferred to use allowances because many workers in the UK undertaking similar roles will not earn £41,500. Employers want to avoid inflating ICT worker base salaries purely to meet the threshold as this will result in wage discrepancies between workers on the ICT route and staff based permanently in the UK. We recommend that guaranteed payments such as shift and overtime allowances, bonus pay, employer pension and national insurance contributions and in-kind benefits, such as equity shares, health insurance, school or university fees are made eligible for inclusion in the salary threshold calculation.
109. Additionally, it is the Scottish Government's view is that there is a strong case for lowering the skills threshold to RQF level 3 for ICT applications, bringing it in line with the Skilled Worker route.
110. We need people to settle in Scotland, to make their homes here, to bring their families, and to contribute to our long term future prosperity. The UK is currently not experiencing the full impact of reduced EU mobility due to the current COVID-19 international travel restrictions. It is anticipated that there will be an increase in similar organisations looking to the ICT route to meet their short term needs where the UK-EU TCA has failed them. The UK Government should reopen discussions with the EU to develop a new comprehensive service provision model, without the need for a UK sponsor. At a minimum list of permitted activities within the visitor route should be reviewed and expanded to meet the short term needs of business and compensate for mobility gaps in the TCA.