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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Scottish Government Set to Launch New Migrant Talent Attraction Service

Holyrood at Odds with Westminster Over Immigration 


By Kirsten Koss


The Scottish Government are to launch a Talent Attraction and Migration Service in 2024, to support international students studying in the UK.


Aberdeen Central’s MSP Kevin Stewart raised several concerns with the Scottish Government about their plans to support international students in Scotland following the UK government’s latest changes to student visas, questioning how these changes may impact upon students in Aberdeen and beyond.


The Gaudie reported on the latest blow to international students this January as the UK government’s controversial new student visas came into place, placing stricter controls on the undergraduate and postgraduate taught students bringing their families to the UK, as well as limiting post-study visas for these students. 


When Mr Stewart asked the Scottish Government  about the mechanisms are in place to monitor the impact of UK visa restrictions “in relation to family members accompanying students on enrolment, university finances, and the wider economy”, the Minister for Higher and Further Education Graeme Day responded saying:


“UK Government immigration policies fail to address Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs and highlights the need for a tailored approach to migration. We are working closely with colleges and universities in Scotland to establish the impact that the UK Government’s damaging migration policies have on the sector.”


In further written correspondence, Mr Stewart asked the government about any additional support given to both international students and universities impacted by the changes. In a response shared with The Gaudie,  Mr Dey spoke of the SNP-Green administration’s concerns with the new migration policies, and their plans to support students choosing to study in Scotland:


“The Scottish Government remains deeply concerned about the new UK visa changes and the impact on Scotland’s ability to attract international students.

The Scottish Government will launch a Talent Attraction and Migration Service in 2024. The service will help address Scotland's demographic challenges and will attract and welcome more workers from outside Scotland, including the rest of the UK, with the skills that our economy needs.”


The new migration service was announced by Mr Dey earlier in the month as part of the Scottish Government’s new International Education strategy and is set to launch this year. The Government say the service will “provide immigration support for employers, including our universities and colleges, based in Scotland and for those wishing to set up in Scotland, to enable them to use the UK’s immigration system effectively and efficiently to help meet Scotland’s skills and labour needs.”


In addition, the service is also set to support students wishing to settle in Scotland after their studies to find employment in order to secure skilled worker visas.


On the Scottish Government’s relationship with Westminster, the minister said:


“The Scottish Government has urged the UK Government to adopt an inclusive approach to family migration to ensure that those with caring responsibilities are not excluded from our education institutions.

...Scotland must be able to attract and retain talent without excessive barriers and migration policy should support mobility, collaboration and innovation."

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice wrote to the new Home Secretary on the 22 December, highlighting Scotland’s distinct demographic needs and requested a meeting to discuss our concerns.”


Mr Dey went on to say that while the Scottish Government are concerned about the impact of the visa changes introduced in January, it is too early to assess the full impact of the policy on Scottish universities, but shared that, “Scotland is encouraging people to live, work and raise their families here, in light of the pronounced demographic challenge ahead.” 


The minister also shared plans to work with the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group on a draft Student Mental Health Action Plan in order to support international students arriving in Scotland without their families. 


Mr Stewart’s quizzing of the Scottish government comes as the Students’ Union announced a relaunch of their borderless campaign at Student Council on February 27th, and a new Borderless student forum.


Updating student councillors on the campaign, VP for Welfare Sai Shraddha S. Viswanthan described the education system for international students as “inaccessible” while Student President Vanessa Mabonso Nzolo went on to say that the UK Government’s immigration policies were creating a “hostile environment” for international students.


Sharing student testimonies during the presentation, the officers quoted one anonymous international student who wished they had chosen to study elsewhere, with another sharing: “how do we recommend younger students from our countries to study in UoA [sic] when we are having such bad experiences and difficulties?”


The Students’ Union will bring policies to both NUS Scotland and NUS National Conference, with the hope to further lobby ministers both in Holyrood and Westminster.

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