My Column

Rules leave gap in labour market in UK

  • Date: Monday 24th December 2018
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Scottish businesses will certainly have been watching with great interest as the Home Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the government’s immigration white paper last week.

I’m sure our thoughts will have all been the same – dismay and worry – as the new proposed immigration system outlined a framework meaning that low-skilled workers from EU countries would no longer have an automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit.

Small businesses throughout Scotland are more reliant than ever on labour and skills from the EU, especially within industries such as agriculture, care, hospitality, health, construction and retail.

But with the proposed new system, a migrant would need to meet a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 to secure a five-year visa. Those below the threshold would only be able to apply for a one year visa.

Now, a quick check into industry salaries shows that many highly-skilled roles come under this threshold. If you are a paramedic and keen to move to Aberdeen – sorry, it’s not happening. Keen to take a midwifery role in Kirkcaldy? I’m afraid under the proposed new system you just don’t make enough, no matter your qualifications.

This can only spell trouble for Scotland. Our geography and demographics mean that we need skilled and non-skilled migrant workers to fill vacancies in towns and cities across the country.

As we hurtle towards leaving the EU and a No Deal Brexit looking more likely than ever in March, many Scottish businesses will be feeling unprepared for the unknown consequences.

With the potential to lose their employment streams, especially for seasonal industries such as tourism which rely heavily on migrant workers, 2019 seems a lot gloomier than first thought for Scottish businesses.

That’s not to say that Scottish commerce has not been preparing for Brexit. However, with under 100 days to go, there is not a lot of time for the thousands of affected businesses to plan ahead.

Hospitality within Scotland has known for some time that there is a skills gap within the industry and with both Brexit and the Scottish Government’s national strategy to double the value of Scotland’s food and drink sector to £30 billion by 2030, a number of measures and initiatives have been put in place to attract and retain home-grown talent.

A huge effort is in place to change perceptions of hospitality as a job with low pay, unsociable and long hours with low chance of progression on the career ladder to what it actually represents - a rewarding career, within a burgeoning Scottish industry, with the added option of being able to travel the world and make an excellent salary.

Numerous Scottish hotels are investing heavily in development programmes and training schemes for their own staff to upskill and develop their talents so that they can retain their employees and help drive business forward. At the same time, many others provide modern apprenticeships for school leavers and those looking to change careers so that they can attract staff.

In my opinion though, Scotland just does not have the population figures to ensure all vacancies are filled – whether it’s across hospitality or any other service industry.

For that we need migrant workers, who bring a hard-working ethos and help buoy the economy of Scotland.

The Home Secretary may feel that his immigration white paper will reduce the influx of foreign workers to manageable figures for the UK. However this reductive one size fits all approach is not good for Scottish business.

 

SIDE

It’s Christmas Eve and there are still people out there yet to start their Christmas shopping. Some may think it’s madness, while others will call it strategic.

With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, today is good news for both retailers and shoppers, representing an extended weekend for last minute shopping. The freezing temperatures and gales from Storm Deirdre may have put off a lot of shoppers from venturing out, but the clock is firmly ticking.

In these fleeting final hours before shops close for Christmas Day, which retailers will benefit the most?

Visa conducted research which revealed spending in traditional shops on town and city streets was down by 4.3 per cent in November compared with the previous year, while internet shopping was up 12 per cent during Black Friday. But what will be the spending habits of last minute shoppers in December?

The deadline has passed for online purchases and while some shoppers will be attracted to the full service department stores or supermarkets, it’s often the independent grocers that save the day for Christmas.

When shops close early on Christmas Eve and remain closed for Christmas Day, it’s the trusted corner store that rescues you from a festive melt down. Whether you are in need of batteries for the kids’ countless new toys or a top-up of gravy granules and bread sauce, their stock helps you breathe a sigh of relief when you run down the high street.

These types of shop are often overlooked but can be a hub for the community throughout the year and a welcome saviour over the festive period. Another great reason to support the high street and shop local.

 

LAUGH

It’s the time of year when you can’t escape the sound of catchy jingles and those Christmas film re-runs for the 100th time.

It can be tedious but it is tradition for some and it did bring a smile to my face to see Home Alone reimagined hilariously for the latest Google advert.

Now 28 years from the original, Macaulay Culkin was back in the role of Kevin McAllister but this time with the help of Google Assistant to guide him through his solo adventures.

It was a clever marketing move from Google after recognising search activity for Home Alone was up almost 2000 per cent. Inevitably, it was also a big hit with movie fans globally as the video went viral within minutes of being released.

 

WEEP

On Christmas morning, many households will wake up to mountains of gifts in novelty gift bags or wrapped in colourful paper and tied with ribbons and bows - but how much of this will go straight into the bin?

The wrapping of course, not the gifts.

Combined with food packaging, gift wrapping is estimated to create a staggering 103,000 tonnes of plastic waste. Aluminium foil alone is expected to contribute 3,600 tonnes of waste in the one week between Christmas and New Year.

A group of 26 nature charities, led by Wildlife and Countryside Link, have clubbed together for this research to reveal how much waste is destined for landfill sites rather than being recycled.

It’s worth thinking twice about ripping open the gifts in order to reuse the wrapping next year.  

 

 

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