New immigration proposals will be catastrophic for the local economy

The proposals have got it wrong – ‘low pay’ does not equal low skill or low value

The proposals from the UK government on introducing a salary threshold of £25,600 will badly hit local businesses and public sector bodies, according to research from the East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC), a partnership of 7 local authorities.

The proposed salary level of £25,600 for new immigrants coming to the UK, along with other requirements such as already having a job offer, will create barriers for local companies wishing to recruit from a diverse talent pool of potential workers. According to figures from the Scottish Parliament, the average salary in Scotland in 2018 for all employees was £23,833, and 53% of workers earned less than £25,000. In occupations in important sectors such as social care, tourism, hospitality and childcare, almost no jobs will qualify for the proposed salary threshold.

In terms of agriculture, the UK Government has stated that the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme will be quadrupled, from 2,500 to 10,000 workers. But Scotland needs – at a conservative estimate – at least 9,255. The National Farmers’ Union estimates that 70,000 seasonal workers are needed across the whole of the UK. That’s a shortage of 60,000. Local farmers have already reported a shortfall of seasonal workers since the Brexit vote, leading to produce being left to rot in fields.

In October 2019, the Scottish Government published a 25-year population projection, which predicts that there will be 240,000 more pensioners, an increase of 23.2%, while the working population will reduce by 7,000. The only population increase will come from inward migration. In a scenario of zero future EU migration, the population would be expected to peak in mid-2028 at 5.49 million and would decline thereafter. 14 local authority areas, mostly rural, are already experiencing a population decline.

Councillor Will Dawson, chair of ESEC, stressed his concerns around the new proposals: “We have thoroughly researched the impact of salary thresholds on our local economy, which we have shared with the Migration Advisory Committee. Looking at the reactions to the government’s proposals, I have not come across one single positive reaction from any industry body. I also completely reject the use of the term ‘cheap labour’ when talking about valued workers who contribute to the economy and our local communities. The proposals have got it wrong – so-called ‘low pay’ does not equal low skill or low value.”


If you require further information, please contact:  Joanne Scobie, ESEC EU Officer, at  

Editor’s Notes

  1. Established in 1991, the East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC) is a local authority membership organisation with a political board which collaborates on a shared EU agenda and supports economic development in the area. The seven members of the ESEC are Aberdeen City, Angus, Dundee, Falkirk, Fife, Perth & Kinross and Stirling Councils. Visit for more information
  2. ESEC’s submission to the Migration Advisory Committee on salary thresholds and a points-based immigration system –
  3. Scottish Government’s population predictions –