Scotland business

New post-Brexit immigration plan 'needed for Scotland'

Carolyn Fairbairn
Image caption Carolyn Fairbairn met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ahead of the CBI's annual lunch in Edinburgh

Plans for the immigration system after Brexit would cause particular problems for Scotland, the director general of the CBI has said.

A UK government consultation includes a minimum £30,000 salary for skilled migrants seeking five-year visas.

The Home Office has said its plans would allow the UK to attract talented workers and deliver on the Brexit vote.

But Carolyn Fairbairn told BBC Scotland she believed skilled workers would have to be recruited at lower pay levels.

Scotland has a particular problem with an ageing workforce, she said.

Ms Fairbairn said: "The trouble with the current immigration plan the government has put forward is it doesn't work for the whole country, and it certainly doesn't work for Scotland."

In 20 years' time, the CBI expects only one third of the Scottish population to be of working age, causing "profound implications for Scotland, its tax base and public services".

"We need the flexibility that allows Scotland to have the people it needs to grow," Ms Fairbairn said.

"Scotland has a particularly unusual problem in terms of a falling working age population.

"For many people wanting to come and work in Scotland the salaries are well below that, so we are looking for change and we are looking for a new immigration model that works for the whole country."

The Scottish median salary is less than £24,000.

'Economic leap'

Ms Fairbairn, who met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday ahead of the employers organisation's annual lunch in Edinburgh, has been working with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) on plans to tackle automation and the future of work.

The two organisations have written to the Scottish government with proposals that they hope could increase "both the number and quality of jobs".

"If we get this right, automation and digitisation can be as important an economic leap forward as the industrial revolution," Ms Fairbairn said.

"We can build a society in Scotland that cherishes the fundamentally human skills, such as communication, empathy, innovation, and leadership."

The CBI has also called for politicians to set a clear timetable for resolving the "paralysing" Brexit deadlock.

"Three years on, the landing zone for a workable deal still feels worrying small, " she said. "And let me be crystal clear. Scottish firms, and firms across the UK, want a deal."

She added: "Firms desperately need a timetable for these next few months. They need to have some idea of process, of timing, to enable them to plan, invest and prepare."

More on this story