I want to concentrate on the issues that education—particularly further and higher education in Scotland—has experienced and could potentially experience as a result of a hard Brexit. First, I would like to talk about the post-study work visa, especially in my capacity as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on photonics. Right across the central belt of Scotland, we have an extremely large amount of strength and expertise in photonics, but photonics and quantum technology are very sensitive to developments in the market. We are currently bringing our international students here, training them up and ensuring that they have the necessary intellectual capacity, but then sending them home to their own countries so that they can challenge or work against companies in our own constituencies. What we should be doing with these talented people is ensuring that they stay to contribute to our economies and that that intellectual property is not lost to our competitors and those who would seek to undermine those companies.
We know that international students are a huge benefit to our local economy, and they pay fees of up to £35,000 per annum. That is a massive amount of money for them, so coming here to do a course—particularly a longer course—as an international student is a huge financial investment. When it comes to their graduation, however, what do we say to their parents? We say, “Well, actually, there’s no guarantee that you can come to the graduation ceremony and go home again. So although you have paid the best part of £100,000 for your child’s education, we’re not even going to allow you to come and join in the celebration of their graduation.” That is shameful.
Conservative Members have talked a lot about the £30,000 salary threshold, and there have been many strong words about that this afternoon, so I urge the Members who have raised concerns about the threshold to join us in voting against it. We know that £30,000 is no indication of the skills of a particular person or of a particular sector. When the White Paper was first published, I asked a series of written questions about what was meant by low, medium and high-skilled positions. I was told that high skills equated to degree level, that medium skills equated to college level or A-level, and that low skills would describe somebody whose highest qualification was at GCSE level, or in Scotland, National 5 level. That was how the Government were designating skills, but I know many people with degrees who do not command salaries of £30,000. We also know that salaries in Scotland are significantly lower than in the south-east of England. Once again, policies are being developed that are particular to one area of the UK and do not take into account the requirements of others.