First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the “devastating” impact the UK’s new immigration rules could have on Scotland’s care sector.
Ms Sturgeon warned of the knock-on effects of Brexit and the Westminster government’s plans for a points-based immigration system which could see care workers ineligible to come into the country to work.
Around 6%-8% of Scotland’s health and social care workforce are EU nationals born outside the UK and Ireland.
New rules surrounding salary requirements would see up to 90% of the roles in health and social care sectors excluded from being offered to foreign workers.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus press conference, the SNP leader did not rule out a campaign to encourage workers from the other three nations of the UK to come to Scotland — but said she would not do so during the pandemic.
‘Debt of gratitude’
She said: “We have, in the past, done advertising campaigns in places like London, encouraging people to think about the quality of life in Scotland.
“We will always, in other parts of the UK and the world, take great pains to illustrate and persuade people of all the many great things about living and working in Scotland.
“While the pandemic is something we are dealing with, then a key thing is trying to keep it under control.
“Scotland is an open and welcoming country. We have a need to encourage people to come and live here so, once we are out the pandemic in the not-too-distant future, we will get back to the job of encouraging as many people as possible to come and live and work in Scotland.”
She added: “The most important thing right now is for us all to recognise the enormous debt of gratitude that we owe and not to send signals, even inadvertently, that suggests that a portion of that workforce — because they have come here from other countries — are not as valued as others.
“That, unfortunately, is the message that the UK Government is risking in the decision they’ve taken around visas.”
UK scheme to encourage health professionals
The Home Office said its new immigration scheme would help health professionals “fast-track” through the UK’s programme.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We are indebted to overseas health and care professionals for their tremendous contributions, not just in saving thousands of lives throughout this crisis, but for the vital role they play year-round.
“This new visa is part of our new immigration system making it quicker, cheaper and easier for the best and brightest health and care professionals from around the globe to work in our brilliant NHS.”
Six days of no deaths from the virus
Ms Sturgeon said there was still a very real risk of a second wave of the virus hitting the UK, but was cautiously optimistic as she pointed out Scotland had recorded a sixth day in a row of no coronavirus-linked deaths.
The First Minister said a total of 2,490 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19 — no change on last Wednesday’s figure.
She said 18,368 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by three from Monday.
A total of 616 patients are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, up 66 from the previous day — and of these 12 were in intensive care.
‘Don’t bother’ going out unless you hand over contact details
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw visited a pub in his constituency on Tuesday, ahead of the reopening of bars and restaurants across Scotland on Wednesday.
Customers will be expected to hand over contact details when they visit, which will aide in the test and trace programme to try to limit the spread of the disease.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Data collection is very important. It means that customers or staff can be notified if they come into contact with somebody who is subsequently found to have Covid-19.
“It’s therefore absolutely crucial to our test and protect system, and it’s one of the measures that we hope will help to build public and staff confidence as more premises reopen.”
Mr Carlaw encouraged people to “get out” to their local hostelries to help boost the economy.
He said: “I think people have got slightly institutionalised almost over the last few months – some have lacked the confidence to come back out again.
“I think it’s important to say ‘yes, we have to be acutely conscious all the time that the virus still exists but as long as people follow the rules, follow the instructions, follow the guidelines and operate within the safe environment people have worked to create, they can do it with confidence’.
“It is vital, because this is a huge sector for the Scottish economy, whether it be something local or whether it be the tourism that supports our many hotels across Scotland. It’s vitally important that this sector recovers and that people have the confidence to go out and support it.”