IMMIGRATION must be depoliticised to ensure Scotland has the care staff it needs, the chief executive of Scottish Care says.

Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of the Ayr-based care sector body, made the call in a new blog post following meetings with UK and Scottish Government ministers about the “recruitment challenges” facing operators here.

While describing the talks as “useful”, Macaskill said: “I fear it will not lead to the urgent outcomes desired by many of us in the social care sector in Scotland.”

And he went on: “I think we need to de-politicise the issue of immigration even if that be a hope beyond heeding.”

The Scottish and UK administrations have opposing views on immigration. Last week Scotland’s Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said he’d pressed UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster (below) for “urgent changes to immigration policy”, including the opening of a new Temporary Worker Route to deal with Scottish labour shortages following Brexit and Covid.

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said challenges like the shortfall in HGV drivers are international and his UK Cabinet is acting to “make sure we have everything in place as the [Covid] recovery continues”.

In his blog, Macaskill said: “I will keep arguing for the urgent necessity not of butchers and truck drivers getting visas, but for folks to get visas to come and work in nursing and social care, for folks to be prioritised and for social care to be added to the Shortage Occupation List.

“In all the focus on toys not being on the shelves at Christmas where has been the equal focus on people not being cared for? We need urgently a regionalised, flexible, responsive immigration system which meets the needs of all sectors and all parts of the country.”

Praising the efforts of “amazing” frontline care workers, he said many had become “exhausted” during the pandemic have left the sector and employers’ “inability” to “attract an international workforce” has resulted in gaps.

Writing that Scotland “has always been a country which needs and requires an international workforce”, Macaskill said “the impact of Brexit and in specific the introduction of new immigration procedures has had a profoundly damaging effect on social care” here.

Citing conversations with providers in rural and remote areas, he said many of the European staff who went to their home countries when the pandemic struck are now “unable to return both because of the cost of and obstacles within the new immigration system”.

And he went on: “The whole narrative around immigration not least around Brexit has been at times toxic and unwelcoming of the immigrant. Despite the efforts of some, not least the Stay in Scotland campaign, many folks have considered that they were not welcome and who would want to stay in a place where you are not valued?”

Yesterday care workers and the GMB trade union rallied outside the Scottish Parliament in a call for a £15 per hour wage as opposed to the minimum £10.02 announced by Humza Yousaf earlier this month.

GMB General Secretary Gary Smith said: “The prospect of wages just above £10 an hour won’t cut it, and if you want to retain and recruit the people we need then we must value this essential work properly.”