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  • Ian Ritchie : Scottish Business Insider

Scotland needs ignored by 'little Englander' Prime Minister

BY THE TIME you read this our ‘supreme leader’ Theresa May will have won her huge majority which empowers her to do anything she wants to do for the next five years. No opposition party will be able to challenge her and, in practice, even rebellious Conservative MPs will be powerless to have any impact on anything she does.

So what is her philosophy? Despite being our Prime Minister for nearly a year it is surprising how little we know about what she wants for our nation, apart of course for ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and even there we still have very little detail on how that goal is to be achieved.

What we do know of her beliefs are rather ‘little Englander’ in characteristic. We know that she has expressed specific support for fox hunting and grammar schools, hardly the priority for those of us more concerned with jobs or the state of our NHS. It seems as if she wants a return to an England in the 1950s when she grew up as a vicar’s daughter in Oxfordshire.

And her desire to turn the clock back to the 50s is also expressed in her attitude to uncontrolled immigration – she’s against it. As the longest serving Home Secretary in modern times she has struggled with control of immigration for years and has found both the EU’s Freedom of Movement policy, and decisions made against the UK at the European Court of Human Rights to be very frustrating.

But, like fox hunting and grammar schools, immigration is really not an issue in Scotland. If it wasn’t for immigrants the Scottish population would have dropped well below five million by now and it seems clear that the vast majority of immigrants contribute hugely to the economy of Scotland.

I work mostly with digital companies, where we find that we need to hire people from around the world. The Scottish digital economy needs 12,000 new recruits every year, but Scotland’s Universities only produce 3,000 computer science graduates each year, creating a gap which needs to be filled somehow.

But it is even worse than that, because a significant proportion of these graduates are not UK nationals and, unless they are EU citizens, will have to leave immediately after they graduate. And after Brexit, even the EU ones will also be sent back.

It has always seemed to many that this is such a waste of skilled resource. Those international graduates have acquired substantial skills during the four years or so they have studied at a Scottish University – surely it makes sense that it should be possible to hire them afterwards.

There used to be a post-study visa system that operated very successfully in Scotland but was abolished suddenly by the UK Government in 2012, and despite protests from the Scottish Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament’s Devolution Powers committee and Universities Scotland there has been only a deaf ear in Whitehall. Scottish Secretary David Mundell has rejected all calls for a rethink.

Meanwhile the UK’s Home Office has decided to pilot a new post-study visa programme at four Universities: Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial and Bath, apparently on the basis that those institutions would not abuse the system – it seems nobody north of Birmingham can be trusted.

What an extraordinary cheek. Any suggestion, for example, that Scotland’s ancient Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews or Aberdeen would game the system to suck in unsuitable international students is an extraordinary allegation to make.

Yes, it seems the ‘little Englanders’ are firmly in charge.

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