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The current migration system is not working for our rural communities. The Scottish visa and rural migration pilot schemes, in line with the recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee, could have a significant positive impact on the growth and sustainability of our rural economy. Those measures would allow Scotland to attract and, crucially, retain people with the skills and attributes that we need for our communities to flourish.
The UK Government should engage positively and work with us to develop the pilots and to trial them in Scotland to encourage people to move to, and stay in, our rural communities.
Does Ben Macpherson share my concerns about reports from a recruitment agency based in my constituency that specialises in sourcing staff from Europe for the rural hospitality sector, for which there is limited local seasonal labour, that in a recent recruitment drive only three people applied for positions, instead of the usual 40-plus applicants? Does he agree with the United Kingdom Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendation that the UK should pilot tailored approaches for rural areas, and will he make a request for Scotland to host such pilots to address labour shortages in sectors such as the rural hospitality industry?
I very much share Keith Brown’s concerns. The example that he cites shows that the fact that we have now left the European Union makes us less attractive to migrant workers. We are competing with EU countries that want to attract the same individuals to work in their economies.
As Keith Brown said, and as I mentioned in my previous answer, pilots should be hosted here in Scotland. We have consistently said that to UK ministers and the Home Office since the previous Home Secretary mentioned the pilots on 23 January 2019. We will continue to engage with the UK Government and to press ministers to undertake the pilots, which will be to the benefit of the whole of Scotland.