Given the extraordinary circumstances of the global pandemic, the full impact of Brexit on Scotland’s workforce is currently unclear. Ultimately, however, having fewer EU workers will damage public services, labour markets and communities.
The expert advisory group on migration and population estimates that a net migration reduction of between 30 and 50 per cent by 2040 would mean a decline of up to 5 per cent in our working-age population. Overall, we estimate that immigration changes could result in a reduction in gross domestic product of around £5 billion.
United Kingdom Government’s immigration policy disregards sectors that are relied upon during the pandemic, including our valued social care workers. To date, the UK Government has refused to engage with the Scottish Government on those crucial issues. I urge it to see sense and to do so urgently.
I thank the minister for that answer, deeply worrying as it is. I am getting reports locally of falling numbers of people working in hotels and other tourism businesses. If we are going to ask people to holiday in Scotland again this summer, what can be done to ensure that our tourism sector has enough staff to cope, given that a high percentage of them came from continental Europe?
Gail Ross raises a really important point. I do not want to prejudge where we will be come the summer, but I know where we were last year, and many of us of course chose to holiday at home in Scotland. That will only be possible with a sustainable tourism industry, so we will work hard to support communities such as Caithness, Sutherland and Ross to ensure that the infrastructure is there for visitors when the sector is deemed safe to reopen.
The Scottish Government has provided unprecedented support to businesses throughout the pandemic, but the end of freedom of movement in the middle of a global pandemic has created unnecessary uncertainty, which could have been avoided. Gaining further powers over our immigration system would give the Scottish Government the ability to further mitigate those issues in the interests of the people of Scotland.