CBI would back devolution of immigration to keep Scotland in single market

Industry body ready to support powers that could ensure single market benefits

THE CONFEDERATION OF BRITISH INDUSTRY (CBI) would be open to supporting more devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament including greater control over immigration and the workforce and skills Scottish business can import.

Addressing an SNP conference fringe meeting Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the powerful business lobby, emphasised that such a decision would not be political but based on ensuring Scotland’s productivity gap and skills shortage is tackled. She stated that certainty was key, not just for businesses, but for EU nationals who work in Scottish industries.

“If more powers are needed in those areas, immigration and the skills around workforce etcetera, then if that’s what it takes to ensure that growth, we’d be supportive.” Carolyn Fairbairn

Fairbairn said: “We don't really want to get caught up in the politics of all this. Really the focus needs to be on the economy, jobs and providing the security and growth people and businesses all over the UK need.”

“However - and I still believe the powers already heading to Holyrood are substantial - but if more powers are needed in those areas, immigration and the skills around workforce etcetera, then if that’s what it takes to ensure that growth, we’d be supportive.”

The fringe meeting titled ‘Going for growth - driving prosperity in a post-Brexit world’ was attended by Keith Brown MSP, the cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work and Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland director.

The panelists, with the exception of Brown, signaled their commitment to make the current political situation work by looking for a ‘good Brexit’ solution.

However, the conversation takes place against the background of European Union (EU) president Donald Tusk’s comments, that there can only be a choice between “hard Brexit and no Brexit.”

The comments follow the decision earlier this week by manufacturer JCB to leave the CBI over what it alleged was the trade body’s “anti-Brexit” stance. 

Scotland has a large productivity gap with a number of EU countries, which politicians and businesses are keen to address regardless of Brexit. The country’s productivity gap with the US and Germany is 30 per cent and 28 per cent respectivley.

However, economist such as Brian Ashcroft of the University of Strathclyde and the Fraser of Allander Institute have argued for the importance of the foreign direct investment and growth that the single market provides to Scotland.

In 2014, 42 per cent of Scotland’s international exports were destined for countries within the EU estimated at £11.6bn. Within the EU, the Netherlands was Scotland’s largest market, followed next by France and then Germany.

Since 2013, the Netherlands is Scotland’s second top export destination country with an estimated £1.9bn in exports in 2014. France comes third with £1.9bn in exports.

As of 2015 jobs in Scotland that were in EU owned companies stood at 150,000, or seven per cent of the market.

Picture courtesy of the CBI

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