Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade) 2:26 pm, 26th June 2019

No, I will not on that point.

I am delighted to be called in this debate. I am pleased that it does not simply focus on the Prime Minister’s toxic legacy on immigration and the hostile environment that she and her hapless Government created, but recognises the positive contribution that immigrants and immigration bring to the country. In this debate, in this Chamber and in the country, I am sure that there will be positive discussion about how we improve the system to make it far more humane and—this is where I agree with the hon. Member for Stirling—far less arbitrary than it is at present. I am also pleased that the motion specifically references Scottish needs on immigration, both for demographic and different economic sectoral reasons. This is important, particularly for Scotland’s growth sectors, which I will say more about in a moment, along with making a small number of other specific points.

I note the value and benefit that migrants, and EU migrants in particular, bring to the economy and I will cite four of Scotland’s growth sectors to demonstrate that. In Scotland alone, in the food, drink and agricultural sector, 10,000 EU migrants are employed. That is 12% of total employment in the sector. One in eight people working in that entire sector is an EU or EEA worker. In tourism in Scotland, there are 17,000 EU workers, which is 9.5% of the total employment in that sector. In the creative sector, there are 10,000. Even in finance and business services, 9,000 workers—or 4% of the total employment in that growth sector—are from the European Union. That is before there is any mention of the contribution that migrants and migrant workers make to health and other vital public services. It is clear from those few examples that any attempt to constrain or restrict the flow of EU labour in any way would be profoundly damaging for businesses in Scotland. Their costs would undoubtedly rise—that is, if alternatives could be found at all—and output, particularly in agriculture, would most certainly suffer.

My second point is that inward migration delivers almost all the net population growth expected for Scotland. Without it, over the medium term, the population would remain static, but have a higher proportion of older people. Migration is therefore vital to ensuring that the proportion of working-age people is maintained, so that there are people to do the jobs that need to be done, and to pay the taxes to fund the public services on which we rely.

The Government’s argument is that there is still a mechanism in place for people to come, and the Minister spoke about the number of people coming to the EU in various capacities, but all sorts of skilled labour—not just highly paid skilled labour—is mobile; that is how it can come to Scotland, and to the UK. If we put up barriers, be they real, hard, financial, or even soft, perceived barriers, we limit the number of people who want to and can come to Scotland, because it might simply be easier for them to go elsewhere.