Scottish hospitality leaders have called for the UK Government to create a new immigration system to help deal with the labour shortages in the sector.
During an Economy and Fair Work Committee session looking at the hospitality sector’s recovery post-pandemic, Leon Thompson, executive director at UK Hospitality Scotland, criticised the current system, claiming it is “not fit for purpose”.
Thompson said: “We do need to look at our immigration system, we haven’t got one that’s fit for purpose post-Brexit, we really need the UK Government to look urgently at that; creating additional routes to come and work in the UK and Scotland.”
He suggested lowering the visa threshold, along with some “creative thinking” around areas like the youth mobility scheme, which could be extended to more countries, perhaps during peak season.
Thompson argued that there was no “quick fix” to the issue and that the government would have to use all the available options at hand to sort it.
The committee also heard from Marc Crothall, chief executive at the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), and Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group.
Crothall argued that the UK needed a “better visa system” to encourage more “freedom of movement” and bring in more talent.
He said that the governments, teachers, and even parents, need to start conveying a positive message about the hospitality sector to encourage young people into the sector, arguing it is “everyone’s business”.
Montgomery was asked by Gordon Macdonald, MSP For Edinburgh Pentlands, whether would support a proposal by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce calling for a devolved immigration policy.
Montgomery agreed, explaining: “Anything that would help get talent from anywhere in the world into Scotland to support us and recruit us – SHG spoke to the committee of the UK Government to open up the visa system to do that.”
He also called for the country to go “back to basics” and remove the myths around the hospitality sector.
The committee also heard evidence that some businesses were still to receive the finances from the latest round of government support, following the Christmas restrictions.
Thompson warned the sector was “not out of the woods with the pandemic” and that Visit Scotland needed to target international travellers and business communities to aid the recovery.
He added that the sector is also pushing the UK Government to keep VAT at 12.5% and is in conversation with the Scottish Government to extend the 50% rates relief for further into the year, “given the losses that occurred in Christmas”.
Crothall backed this up by revealing that 59% of UK holidaymakers were planning only one holiday this year, due to finances being stretched, arguing that the sector urgently needs fiscal policy support.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We want to see employers make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad. Our Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country retrain, build new skills and get back into work.
“The Government encourages all sectors to make employment more attractive to UK domestic workers through offering training, careers options, wage increases and investment.”
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