Clarity sought on UK position after return of post study work visa is ruled out.
The cross party Post Study Work Steering Group has written to the UK Government expressing their surprise and disappointment that a return of the post study work visa has been ruled out.
The letter asks Immigration Minister James Brokenshire for clarity on the UK Government's position on the reintroduction of the visa after papers lodged in the UK Parliament by Scottish Secretary David Mundell appeared to rule out the return of the post study work visa in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has been campaigning for a return of the visa, which allowed international students to remain in Scotland and work after graduation.
The call has been backed by businesses, colleges and universities, and has cross party support in the Scottish Parliament amongst every political party represented in Holyrood.
The decision has come without Scottish stakeholder discussions and before key reports on post study work are published by the UK Parliament's Scottish Affairs Committee and the Post Study Work Steering Group.
Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf, who chairs the cross party steering group, said:
"Representatives from across political parties, from academia, from businesses and from the trade union sector have expressed their surprise and disappointment at the apparent decision of the UK Government to rule out a return of the post study work visa with no substantive consultation with either the Scottish Government or major stakeholders. It is our collective opinion that this decision goes against the spirit of the Smith Commission recommendations.
"It is important that the UK Government clarifies whether they are ruling out a return of the post study work visa, despite the support for its return from all sectors of Scottish society.
"I'm also calling on Mr Brokenshire to meet with the cross party steering group on post study work as a matter of urgency.
"Scotland has different immigration needs to the rest the UK and by ruling out a return of the post study route the UK Government is ignoring this and Scotland's best interests, as well as the recommendations of the Smith Commission."
The full text of the letter is below.
I am writing to you on behalf of the cross-party Post Study Work Steering Group.
We are very surprised and disappointed that the Secretary of State for Scotland has published a written statement indicating that there is no intention of reintroducing the post study work visa in Scotland. As you will be aware, we wrote to the Home Secretary specifically requesting that the UK Government refrain from taking a final view until we had concluded our work. The manner and timing of this written statement, without even responding to our correspondence, is wholly inappropriate.
The cross-party Smith Commission Report stated that:
"…the Scottish and UK Governments should work together to…explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland and contribute to economic activity for a defined period of time."
This cross-government exploration of formal schemes has not happened and Mr Mundell's statement is not within the spirit of the Smith Commission.
We write to seek clarity on the UK Government's position regarding the reintroduction of the post study work visa. You may wish to consider the following news article outlining the views of Scottish stakeholders to Mr Mundell's announcement.
During your recent evidence session to the Scottish Affairs Committee on post study work, you indicated that you would be willing to meet with the Scottish Government to discuss this further. In light of this announcement, we now request an urgent meeting with you to raise our concerns.
This letter is also copied to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Issued on behalf of Post Study Work Steering Group members:
Liz Smith MSP (Conservative)
Liam McArthur MSP (Liberal Democrat)
Claire Baker MSP (Labour)
John Finnie MSP (on behalf of the Green Party)
Institute of Directors
Scottish Council for Development and Industry
National Union of Students (NUS Scotland)
Scottish Universities International Group
UK Council for International Student Affairs
Scottish Trades Union Congress
Scottish Chambers of Commerce