By Bill Heaney
What action it is taking to assist any Scottish businesses that are struggling to recruit skilled workers?
Tory Murdo Fraser put the question to Neil Gray, the new SNP Cabinet Secretary for Well-being Economy, Fair Work and Energy, who told him: “The action that we are taking to work with employers includes on-going investment to deliver 25,500 new modern apprenticeship starts in 2023-24, support for developing the young workforce to enable young people to prepare for work, and on-going investment in short courses across tertiary education that are aimed at up-skilling and re-skilling.
“Furthermore, through the establishment of a talent attraction and migration service, our wider programme of work and the work of our enterprise agencies, we will help employers in key sectors to recruit workers from outside Scotland.”
However, Murdo Fraser, pictured right, was not content with that answer. He persisted: “Contrary to the claims that are often made in this chamber that Brexit has dried up the supply of migrant workers, the latest figures show that net legal migration to the United Kingdom has doubled since Brexit.
“It is now at record levels and it is projected to grow still further. The problem is that too few of those legal migrants to the UK come to Scotland. We lag behind every part of England with the exception of the north-east when it comes to attracting …
“Members on the SNP benches do not want to hear the facts on this, Presiding Officer, because it does not suit their narrative, but the fact is that Scotland does very badly compared with other parts of the UK in attracting legal migrants to come here and fill the vacancies that our businesses have.
“What more is the Scottish Government going to do to try to make Scotland a more attractive place for the migrant workers that we need to come and work here?”
Neil Gray replied: “I have already spoken about the implementation of the talent attraction and migration service, to mitigate the difficulties that our employers have faced post-Brexit.”
He added: ” Murdo Fraser must have been living in a cupboard if he has not had the level of representation from employers in his area that I have had in my area and from across Scotland about the impact that Brexit has had through cutting freedom of movement.
“We continue to call on the UK Government to ensure that it has an immigration system that is more suitable to the needs of people in Scotland.
“I progressed that work in my previous role, alongside Mairi Gougeon [another SNP Minister] for instance, with a rural visa pilot, which many on the Conservative benches would support, despite the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland is currently holding it up [delaying its progress].”
Top picture: Immigrants and asylum seekers – not enough of them come to Scotland, says Tory.