Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed Scottish Government plans to explore a series of potential solutions to the population challenges of rural and island communities.
In a letter to the UK Migration Minister Kevin Foster, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon highlighted three proposed models for a rural migration pilot scheme which could help address rural population decline. The exploration of these models will involve working with local government and businesses to develop the proposals for the Scottish Government scheme.
Allan, who recently raised some of these issues in the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Committee, said:
“All three of these potential models could provide significant benefits for the Western Isles economy.
“An expansion of the skilled worker route for employers in rural areas, or a Scottish Visa aimed at designated areas, could help address some of the labour shortages for specific industries that we have seen in recent months in the islands. Equally, a remote and rural partnership scheme between local authorities, employers, public services and the voluntary sector could help ensure employment and services gaps caused by rural depopulation are addressed.
“What is clear is that an approach more tailored to local needs is required, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all attitude of current UK Government immigration policy.
“It is vital that the Home Office works constructively with the Scottish Government to develop migration solutions that meet the needs of our rural and island communities, particularly given the role of Brexit in seasonal labour shortages.”
The models to be explored, as recommended by the Scottish Government’s independent Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population, will include:
• Expanding the Skilled Worker route. This would involve relaxing conditions for the Skilled Worker route in the new UK immigration system, specifically for employers in designated areas;
• A Scottish Visa. This would build on the Scottish Government’s proposal for a Scottish Visa as set out in the January 2020 migration paper, but aimed specifically at designated areas.
• A remote and rural partnership scheme. Modelled on the Canadian Atlantic Pilot scheme this would be an employment-based scheme, but as part of a wider partnership between local authorities, employers, public services and the voluntary sector.
For the full text of the Cabinet Secretary’s letter, please see: https://www.gov.scot/publications/rural-visa-pilot-scheme-letter-to-minister-for-safe-and-legal-migration/