A Conservative member of Perth and Kinross Council has questioned how “friendly and welcoming” an SNP-run Scotland is to migrants.
Councillor Angus Forbes, the opposition party’s spokesperson for economic development, claims Scotland is an “unattractive” place for people from other nations compared to England.
He was responding to criticism of Suella Braverman made by Liberal Democrat Councillor Peter Barrett.
Mr Barrett said the Tory home secretary’s suggestion that the UK trains its own fruit pickers to cut immigration showed “a significant degree of naivety”.
He said: “The Conservatives’ anti-migrant rhetoric has made the UK less appealing to workers and their anti-migrant policies have made it far harder for businesses to get the staff they need.”
‘They don’t see Scotland as an attractive place’
But Mr Forbes, who represents Carse of Gowrie, claims the “facts tell a totally different story.”
“Councillor Barrett is completely wrong to suggest that the UK is now less appealing to immigrants since Brexit,” he said.
“Legal net migration to the UK has doubled since Brexit and is now at record numbers.
“The issue that Perthshire has in regard specifically to fruit pickers is not the number of people available in the UK.
“Rather it’s the fact that they don’t see Scotland as an attractive place to come and settle.
“Every single region of England except the North East attracts more migrants than Scotland does so what we should all be looking at – and I include Councillor Barrett in this – is consider why that may be.
“Why is Scotland an unattractive place to settle for migrants?
“Could it be that under 15 years of SNP rule, Scotland is not the friendly and welcoming place that we would like it to be?”
‘He is talking bananas’
He added that Ms Braverman is “right to find ways to clamp down on illegal migration.”
Mr Forbes continued: “There is nothing wrong with training our own citizens to pick fruit or indeed do any other job that needs to be done.
“We often speak at the council about growing our own in areas like care workers and HGV drivers, two professions that are difficult to staff.
“I am afraid it’s Councillor Barrett that is talking bananas.”
Mr Barrett responded by claiming Councillor Forbes is “hurt by the truth”.
“The impact of Brexit, the Conservative’s hostility to immigration and their incompetence in government are hurting farmers and the horticultural sector,” he said.
“NFU Scotland called on the UK Government, three years ago, to deliver a seasonal workers scheme which would deliver the 10,000 workers Scotland needs.
“Instead crops have gone to waste unpicked, operations have been scaled back and farmers have had to change crops.”
Councillor Grant Laing, leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said he “agreed wholeheartedly” with Councillor Barrett.
He added: “It is political gymnastics for Councillor Forbes to try and pin something onto the SNP that everybody in the industry blames on Brexit.”