Calum Crichton is a policy researcher at the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Conservatives.
The decision of the British people to leave the European Union on 23rd June introduces significant challenges and opportunities. Of that there can be no doubt.
But while the UK Government and the devolved administrations of Wales and Northern Ireland are trying to explore the opportunities of Brexit, we have an SNP administration in Scotland determined to devote its energy to exaggerating the risks and developing new divisions within society.
This was initially hinted in Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the SNP conference, and more recently raised in the House of Commons by the East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson and then again by Mike Russell in the Scottish Parliament. The theory goes that Scotland needs to attract migrant workers to address its ageing population.
Yet by neglecting the substantial powers it already has at its disposal, these outbursts serve only to highlight the can’t-do nature of the SNP’s governance. The SNP Government has yet to say anything about the significant migration pull factors at its disposal such as the Scottish education system, job opportunities, and wage prospects.
And sadly it is neglecting a home-made solution to potential labour supply restrictions in Scotland: internal migration. It is surely at least as important to draw Scottish people into the job market than to attract foreign workers?
Looking at the data on this, Scotland’s employment rate remains below its May 2007 level, when the SNP first took office; the inactivity rate is on the rise; and employment growth lags behind every other UK region.
Underemployment of the current workforce is also a substantial problem, and proportionately a larger one than for the UK. Time-based underemployment (i.e. the number of people who would like to work more hours) is at 232,000, while skills-based underemployment is at 187,080. That is a significant number of people whose skills are being underutilised in their current job.
And long-term unemployment has increased by over 80 per cent under the SNP since 2007. The latest available data puts it at 51,600 – a rate of 32.6 per cent. This is higher than the equivalent UK rate of 30.5 per cent.
To put these numbers in context there are presently 153,850 working-age EU nationals currently living in Scotland. Future EU migration into Scotland might well be substantially reduced from this level.
But as the employment statistics indicate, any potential loss of labour supply could be more than offset by utilising the skills of the home-grown population, if there was the political will to make it happen.
Sadly for Scotland, however, this SNP Government is just not interested.