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Council / SIC in support of rural visa scheme proposal

THE COUNCIL’s political leader Emma Macdonald has spoken in support of a tailored immigration scheme to Scotland’s rural areas, such as Shetland.

The Shetland North councillor responded to an initiative for a bespoke rural visa pilot scheme developed by the Scottish Government and endorsed by parliament on Tuesday.

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald: Shetland is struggling ‘in growing our industries and maintaining key services’. Photo: Shetland News

Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon has now written to newly appointed home secretary Suella Braverman setting out the proposal and inviting the UK Government to make the required reforms to the UK immigration system necessary for the proposal to become a reality.

Gougeon said the UK’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to immigration was damaging to the Scottish economy.

Macdonald said the ongoing shortage of labour and high number of vacancies in the private and public sector was holding communities such as Shetland back.

“Shetland has incredible economic opportunities arising over the next few years, with developments in space, energy and decommissioning emerging alongside the continued high performance of our more established sectors such as fishing, aquaculture, construction and agriculture,” the council leader said.

Scottish rural affairs secretary Mairi Geogeon
Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

“However, an ageing demographic and shortage of key skills means that we are experiencing real struggles in growing our industries and maintaining key services, threatening economic prosperity and the potential for growth.

“The proposed rural visa pilot will recognise the pressing need for bespoke measures to address these challenges in rural areas.”

Gougeon added: “The proposal sets out exactly how a bespoke immigration solution could be delivered at a local level in Scotland, now. These are interventions that can work in Scotland, just as they have worked in Canada.”

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The Scottish Rural Community Immigration Pilot (SRCIP) has been developed in partnership with local authorities and business sector organisations.

It represents a community-driven approach to local migration and would work as follows:

  • Rural and remote communities would be allowed to attract migrants in line with their distinct needs;
  • Participating employer-sponsors within designated geographic areas would advertise vacancies using SRCIP bespoke entry criteria;
  • Employers and communities would then be able to assess prospective candidates, before recommending chosen candidates to the Home Office for final approval and security checks;
  • Once a decision is approved, community partners would offer a package of integrated settlement support services for newcomers;
  • Participating employers would also have responsibility for ensuring that terms and conditions of the scheme continued to be met

Chair of Scottish Rural Action Theona Morrison said: “Rural and island communities across Scotland have demanded specific responses, and so we have been encouraged to see that the SRCIP has been designed to reflect the needs of individual communities.

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick: ‘Everyone is feeling the Brexit hit.’

“We hope that the UK Government considers this proposal and acts upon it in ways that support the flourishing of rural and island communities in Scotland.”

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick added that the area she represents is deeply suffering the effects of Brexit and the end to free movement.

“It seems that, with every decision the recent Tory governments have made, building material and other imported goods costs go up. Everyone from housing associations to wee town shops are feeling the hit and struggling to carry on,” she said.

“A rural visa has the potential to help address this massive gap in the workforce. Many EU nationals I have spoken to have indicated the lack of a clear path to stay as their reason for leaving or considering leaving.”

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