A different immigration system for Scotland would create an “unwanted barrier” for oil and gas firms that are competing globally for talent, a north-east MP has said following evidence given to a key Westminster committee.
Industry experts in oil and gas, life sciences and medical research appeared before MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee today.
Scottish Conservative MP Ross Thomson asked Alix Thom, workforce engagement manager for industry body Oil and Gas UK, about the possibility of diverging rules on immigration north of the border.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants Scotland to have control over immigration and trade after the UK leaves the EU.
Mrs Thom said oil and gas sector leaders want to see a system that is “clear and simple to administer” and urged both the UK and Scottish governments to work together to that end.
She added that there were problems during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum when companies struggled to get executive-level staff to move north of the border due to the level of uncertainty about the future.
Speaking after the committee, Ross Thomson, Scottish Conservative MP for Aberdeen South, said:
“From the evidence given today, it is clear there is little appetite for a separate Scottish immigration system among the North Sea oil and gas sector.
“This is a truly global industry, anchored here in Aberdeen, that often requires people to move all around the world.
“Any cross-border divergence within the UK would cause unnecessary problems for the sector and create an unwanted barrier to hiring top level staff.
“We heard today that companies based in Aberdeen are competing globally for talent and want to see clear and simple rules around immigration.
“The uncertainty over a second Scottish independence referendum will certainly not help, and it is clear that caused problems in the industry in the run-up to 2014.
“Scotland is developing a growing reputation as a country where middle to higher earners will be taxed more and face higher rates of stamp duty than elsewhere in the UK.
“This ongoing threat of another referendum will deter the top people from coming to Scotland and it needs to be taken off the table immediately.”