The Scottish government has set out proposals to tackle the post-Brexit labour crisis and boost the number of working age people in rural communities.
In a letter to the UK migration minister Kevin Foster, Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon said a shortage in local labour supply needed addressing urgently.
At 6-7% below the national average, rural labour supply meant farming and countryside businesses were more vulnerable, Ms Gougeon said.
Although she admitted that migration was not the sole route to alleviating a longstanding decline, she said post-Brexit measures were failing to attract workers to rural areas.
“The salary threshold for the UK’s immigration system and the Shortage Occupation List are not enough to attract working age people to our rural areas,” Ms Gougeon wrote.
“The Scottish government has long argued that the current system does not meet Scotland’s migration needs.”
Ms Gougeon informed Mr Foster that she intended to press ahead with a raft of pilot measures. These include:
A Scottish visa – building on existing proposals for a Scottish visa, this would be aimed specifically at rural areas where labour shortages were identified. Applicants would be assessed under a points-based system which could prioritise targeted characteristics
Expanded skilled worker scheme – widening the “desirable skills” criteria for workers and adding special measures that would allow rural employers to recruit the staff they needed from abroad
Remote and rural partnership scheme – an employment-based scheme run in partnership with local authorities, employer and public services. The partnership would play an active role in highlighting skill shortages and work to recruit suitable overseas workers.
Ms Gougeon added: “We cannot just rely on retention of the existing population. We need to attract new people, families and those of working age who can help to grow and sustain our communities.”