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SNP MP Drew Hendry steps up calls for regional migration system; the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey MP believes it will benefit the Highlands and Islands and protect vital industries after Brexit

By Ali Morrison

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Drew Hendry
Drew Hendry

A HIGHLAND MP has hailed a report by a leading immigration law firm arguing that free movement of EU nationals in Scotland post-Brexit is a "practical and workable option" for a regional migration system that tackles the needs of the area's economy.

Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, has welcomed the report by Fragomen.

The Highland MP has long called for a tailored immigration system to meet the needs of the Highlands and Islands and has written in the past asking for the region’s needs and requirements to be taken into consideration when developing a new policy.

He is now calling on UK government ministers to revisit their post-Brexit immigration proposals and instead implement a regional migration system to meets the unique needs of the Highlands and Islands region.

He argued that the Highlands and Islands have a complex and diverse range of economic and population needs, and Brexit and the UK government’s new points-based immigration policy threatens to plunge our working-age population into decline and inflict serious damage to our public finances.

The Scottish Futures report sets out how Scotland’s population needs could be met through a regional migration system – with one option being continuation of the rights of European citizens to live and work in Scotland even after those rights have been removed for the rest of the UK.A whole range of other possible additional visa options is also set out.

“The Highland region has been a welcoming place for EU citizens who have made a life here over the last 40 plus years and we value their contributions to our society whether socially, culturally or economically," said Mr Hendry, who is also the SNP's business, energy and industrial strategy spokesman.

"The Tory party’s post-Brexit immigration plan will have serious consequences for these individuals and businesses across all sectors in our local economy.

“The last few years have shone a light on several high profile immigration cases in the Highlands where hard-working individuals and families have been forced to leave their homes and businesses, or have been denied entry, by a system which currently does not and evidently will not take into account specific local considerations.

“This report sets out clearly how Scotland could benefit from a tailored immigration and migration framework, and it completely dispels the UK Government’s arguments that a multi-nation approach would be unworkable. This report builds on international practice and provides a wide range of options which would allow Scotland to continue to attract migrants without difficulty.

“Instead of dismissing practical solutions out of hand and ignoring Scotland’s population needs, the UK government must engage constructively with the Scottish Government, the Federation of Small Business and other bodies who have grave concerns over the upcoming points-based immigration system to create a UK-wide system which includes options to address Scotland’s distinct requirements.

“Given this report warns of a continued trend of an ageing demographic and out-migration of young people in the Highlands, and that some businesses in the Highlands have 30 per cent of their staff from the EU, it is imperative that Scotland has an immigration system fit for purpose.

"Across Scotland last year, over half of foreign workers who left Scotland were EU citizens. This is unsustainable and unacceptable, and the UK Government must listen to concerns.”

- Click here to read more news from the Strathspey and Badenoch area.

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