Review of effects on measures in Act of certain changes in migration levels

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 18th June 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary) 3:45 pm, 18th June 2020

New clauses 14 and 15 together provide for a review of the effects of measures in the Bill on migration. Has there ever been a more apt time to assess the impact of the Finance Bill on migration, as the UK steams ahead with dragging Scotland out of the European Union against its will and, in doing so, removes the ability for us to move freely across the continent of Europe and for Europeans to move freely into Scotland to take on the jobs that we so desperately need them to take, as well as providing the cultural and economic support that our society needs and deserves?

The debate about migration has been had on many occasions in the Chamber and in many Committees in Parliament, but it is particularly important in relation to the Finance Bill, given the fact that migration is unequivocally a positive thing for our economy, in particular in Scotland. I will reflect briefly on an example from my constituency. A company called John Ross Jr makes smoked salmon so good—the kilns are good—that even the Queen enjoys it. It is a world-renowned company. When the company had sight of the UK Government’s plans for immigration, it wrote to me describing as “catastrophic” the impact of removing free movement of people into Scotland.

That company’s labour force has been heavily dominated by people from fellow European nations. They have driven that organisation forward, which is a positive thing that we should welcome and encourage. It is good for Scottish business, it is good for the Scottish economy and therefore it is good for the wider UK economy.

However, for some reason, the UK Government seem intent on dragging Scotland away from that situation, which is deeply disappointing, because Scotland faces a wider demographic challenge—a demographic time bomb, so to speak. Our working-age population continues to decrease and migration is one of the easiest solutions to that problem.

The Scottish Government have sought to be pragmatic in that regard. They came forward to the UK Government in good faith, with proposals for a Scottish visa that would not be different from what is being put in place by the UK Government, but with an additional element that which would allow us to attract the workforce that we need. It would perhaps replicate what is in place in Canada and Australia, but it was rejected out of hand— in fact, I think that it was rejected out of hand within 20 minutes—despite the fact that it is in Scotland’s best interests.

Earlier, we heard—I think it was from the Minister—how the UK Government do not have control over all aspects of life in Scotland. However, where they do have control on immigration, they are doing severe damage, which will not be forgotten by Scottish business nor by the Scottish people, and when the time comes for us to make our own decisions once again and we go to that vote on whether Scotland should be an independent nation, it is the likes of the UK Government’s immigration policies that will weigh heavily on the minds of Scottish voters.

I will just conclude, because I am conscious of time, given the desire for everyone to be able to get home, by saying that the reality—the big question, as I have said before—is: why not? Why would someone not support this proposal? Why would they not want to know what the impact of the Bill will be, because ultimately we will have a situation where UK tax policies fail to boost immigration and falling immigration hits the Treasury. This proposal is a sensible one, which would hopefully protect the interests of Scotland.