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The 10,000 figure follows the express recommendation of the Scottish Affairs Committee— chaired by Peter Wishart, no less—which stated that there should be an expansion of the seasonal workers scheme to 10,000. Of course, once the required objective is reached, the grievance machine cranks into action and the goalposts are moved.
There is also the current proposal to establish a new national health service visa to help encourage more healthcare professionals to come and work in the UK. That will undoubtedly have significant benefits for Scotland, given the disastrous manner in which the SNP Government has failed to manage and plan for our NHS workforce. There was the announcement in September that the post-study work visa would be reintroduced, which will not only provide security for those who have chosen to study here from abroad, but will provide the incentive to stay in the UK and to further enhance our economy and culture. In each respect, that highlights the commitment of the UK Government to expand opportunities to work in our country, and importantly, ensures that we continue to welcome new citizens to the UK.
Given the minister’s remarks concerning the EU settlement scheme, I feel it is only right and proper to address that directly and to reassure any EU citizens watching this debate that we welcome them and that this process is not obstructive, but a necessary one. The settled status scheme ensures that access to benefits and other state services will remain unaffected. It requires applicants to prove their identity, show that they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions. This scheme is necessary so that the position of EU citizens who remain in the UK is clear and known, and I believe this scheme is the best means to do that. Many people have already signed up to the scheme, with some 1.8 million people applying up to the end of September 2019, of which 92,700 have come from Scotland. Some 24,700 of those applications were made in September alone. Up until the end of September, more than 1.5 million applications have been settled, of which 61 per cent have been granted settled status, and 38 per cent granted pre-settled status. Back in March this year, the Home Office announced a £3.75 million advertising campaign to highlight the scheme, and just a few weeks ago announced an additional £1 million to further advertise it. It is patently clear that these are not the actions of a Government that is discouraging EU citizens from remaining in the UK, but one that is actively trying to help people register with the scheme prior to the deadline in December 2020.
I also note the points raised by the minister concerning the UK Government’s white paper based on proposals from the Migration Advisory Committee. There has been a significant degree of misinformation about this matter, and I shall touch on it briefly. First and foremost, it should be noted that the white paper is just that, and not definitive UK Government policy. The measures proposed are proposals for consideration only. The Home Secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, noted when it was published that
“it is not the final word. Rather, it is the starting point for a national conversation on our future immigration system. And I’m pleased to announce that the government will be launching a year-long programme of engagement across the UK to ensure a wide range of views are heard”.