Scottish Parliament Endorses A Rural Visa Scheme

A Rural Visa Scheme has been endorsed by The Scottish Parliament with only the Conservatives voting against it. The vote was For 79, Against 29, Abstentions 0.

The Rural Visa Scheme being put forward for Scotland has been developed by the Scottish Government, local authorities and key representatives from employers and partners based within areas of Scotland where depopulation is a significant concern. Scotland’s Rural Visa is based on a successful similar scheme in Canada. For the Scottish one to be implemented it requires consent from the Tory UK Government where power lies over immigration.

Theona Morrison, Chair, Scottish Rural Action said:

“Scottish Rural Action has been pleased to contribute to the design of the Scottish Rural Community Immigration Pilot (SRCIP) proposal.

“Rural and island communities across Scotland have demanded specific responses, and so we have been encouraged to see that the SRCIP has been designed to reflect the needs of individual communities.

“We hope that the UK Government considers this proposal and acts upon it in ways that support the flourishing of rural and island communities in Scotland.”

Highlands & Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick has said that one way to address the serious depopulation across the region is for Scotland to take immigration policy into its own hands.

Emma Roddick raised the issue during the debate in the Scottish Parliament. She said:

“It is grim that, despite voting to stay in the EU, the Highlands and Islands is deeply suffering the effects of Brexit and the end to free movement. It seems that, with every decision the recent Tory governments have made, building material and other imported goods costs go up.  Everyone from housing associations to wee town shops are feeling the hit and struggling to carry on.

“A rural visa has the potential to help address this massive gap in the workforce. Many EU nationals I have spoken to have indicated the lack of a clear path to stay as their reason for leaving or considering leaving.

“The Highlands and Islands are being constantly harmed over and over by UK Government policies. The cost to Scotland of remaining in the United Kingdom is already high, but my region’s future may well be added to that bill very soon. We need to be able to make our own choices on immigration – this punitive UK system is harming our rural communities and agricultural sector.

“Scotland should get the powers needed to address the unique challenges the Scottish Government is tasked with addressing.  But we must use them, and the ones we’ve got, to ensure a future for the Highlands and Islands.”

The Scottish Rural Community Immigration Pilot (SRCIP) is a new community-driven approach to local migration.

  • The scheme would allow rural and remote communities to attract migrants in line with their distinct needs.
  • Participating employer-sponsors within designated geographic areas, referred to as Community Pilot Areas, would advertise vacancies (using SRCIP bespoke entry criteria).
  • Employers and communities would then be able to assess prospective candidates, before recommending chosen candidates to the Home Office for final approval and security checks.
  • Once a decision is approved, community partners – including employers, local statutory, and third sector services – would offer a package of integrated settlement support services for newcomers.
  • Participating employers, in collaboration with Scottish Government and UK Government organisations, would also have responsibility for ensuring that terms and conditions of the scheme continued to be met.

The Leader of Shetland Islands Council, Councillor Emma MacDonald said:

“Shetland has incredible economic opportunities arising over the next few years, with developments in space, energy and decommissioning emerging alongside the continued high performance of our more established sectors such as fishing, aquaculture, construction and agriculture.

“However, an ageing demographic and shortage of key skills means that we are experiencing real struggles in growing our industries and maintaining key services, threatening economic prosperity and the potential for growth.

“The proposed rural visa pilot will recognise the pressing need for bespoke measures to address these challenges in rural areas

The Scottish scheme is based on one working successfully in Canada

The Atlantic Immigration Program is a pathway to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers and international graduates from a Canadian institution who want to work and live in 1 of Canada’s 4 Atlantic provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador. The program helps employers hire qualified candidates for jobs they haven’t been able to fill locally.

Atlantic Immigration Program

Next Steps:

Rural Affairs Secretary in the Scottish Government Mairi Gougeon has written to the UK Government, setting out the proposal alongside a wider call for a tailored migration policy which meets the needs of Scotland’s economy, public services and communities.

“The proposal supported by the Scottish Parliament, local authorities and partners is for the establishment of a Scottish Rural Community Immigration Pilot (SRCIP), a community-driven approach to local migration modelled on successful immigration schemes delivered in Canada. It proposes an employment-based scheme, delivered by a wide-ranging partnership between
UK and Scottish Government, local authorities, employers, public services and the voluntary sector, who would play an active role in identifying which types of areas and employers would benefit most from the scheme, and would be engaged in delivering an ‘integration plan’. It is designed to allow rural and remote communities to attract migrants in line with distinct local needs”