Scottish small businesses set to be worst hit by post-Brexit immigration rules

We wrote earlier about how the Tory party in Scotland is insulting your intelligence by trying to make this election about one single issue.

We argued that this is because the Tories know they can’t win on policy so are trying to make the election about independence. We listed many Tory policies the Conservatives are trying to divert your attention from. We also highlighted the fact that the main issue in this General Election is the impact a Tory Brexit. A situation that the majority of Scots never voted for.

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On cue, the Federation of Small Businesses has just released a report showing that leaving the EU might have a disproportionately big impact on Scottish small businesses. Put simply, Scottish small businesses are more reliant on EU free movement.

The report shows that a third of Scottish small employers with EU workers are concerned about future skills shortages.

One quarter (26%) of Scottish small employers currently have a member of staff from elsewhere in the EU, with this figure rising to two in five (41%) in the Highlands. By comparison, about a fifth of UK firms have an EU worker.

The small business campaign group says that is vital for Scottish businesses that EU workers are given the right to remain in the country after the UK leaves the EU. A concession that neither the UK nor the EU have yet been able to give.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said:

There is real concern among small firms with EU staff that they will lose access to the skills and labour their business needs to survive and grow. EU workers are a vital part of our economy, helping to plug chronic skills gaps across a wide range of sectors, and filling jobs in an already tight labour market. From packers, to mechanics, to graphic designers, small employers need to be able to hire the right person, for the right job at the right time.

The new research shows that, if Brexit creates additional barriers to recruiting EU citizens, Scottish small employers would consider reducing operations (37%), closing their business (19%), or moving their business abroad (12%).

Issues like these are what this General Election should be all about but the Tory party are desperate to make it about independence.

The issues that these small businesses are worried about are exactly the type of things that Ruth Davidson warned about when she fought tooth and claw to prevent Brexit. A fight she has now forgotten about in favour of making her party only stand for one issue.

Ruth, making the case for the EU.

Yet small businesses are correct to be worried about Brexit.

The Tory negotiating stance, combined with the EUs aim of not making exit attractive to other members, makes it very likely that a whole new layer of bureaucracy is about to be created for small businesses. This has a real potentially to force a lot of small businesses to move, downsize or close with real negative consequences for the Scottish economy.

The Conservative party are doing their utmost to distract you from serious issues like this by talking solely about avoiding an independence referendum.

However, to many small businesses this issue is far more important than whether or not we should have an independence referendum. After-all, a referendum is only the process of giving the public a choice but with Brexit the choice has already been made. A choice that will have a big impact on Scottish small firms.

Having access to the European Economic Area and free movement is literally the difference between life and death to many businesses. The signs are that the Tories are pursuing a hard-Brexit which will put small business interests in jeopardy.

That said, the Tories will struggle to proceed down that route if they don’t win by a big majority in June. You can help to reduce that majority or even wipe it out completely by not falling for their one issue politics.

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Bobby Hainey

Joint founder of Autonomyscotland. In my spare time I enjoy Road Cycling, Munro bagging and beer.

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