KATE Forbes has urged the UK Government to urgently review Scottish Government proposals for a rural visa pilot scheme.

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch told Holyrood during a member’s debate on Wednesday evening that the scheme would be “transformational” for local economies in Scotland.

A year ago exactly, Scottish ministers revealed plans to pilot a Scottish visa scheme to allow some businesses to more easily recruit foreign nationals.

The scheme is designed to help resolve a shortage of workers in certain sectors post-Brexit, and particularly in rural areas. But with immigration reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government had to send its plans to the Home Office to be rubber-stamped – which they have not.

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch told the chamber that the silence was “deafening” from the UK Government and took aim at Tory immigration policy, which she described as “despicable”.

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Forbes said: “This proposal commands widespread support. This would allow for bespoke immigration, meeting the needs of particular sectors and geographies, enriching our communities and society.

“It is modelled on the successful Canadian Atlantic Immigration Programme, which proves it could work even in a devolved context.”

She added that it was “the only sensible solution”.

Many rural areas are dependent on migration to fill vacancies with many jobs in care homes, hospitality and farm work not meeting the required salary thresholds set by the UK Government to allow people from the EU or other parts of the world to take up posts.

Prior to Brexit, freedom of movement across the EU allowed EU nationals to work in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK without the need for a visa.

In a column for The National on Wednesday, Forbes said the scheme would allow rural communities to “identify the distinct needs of their local area” and tackle increasing depopulation.

She said: “The Western Isles, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, Shetland Islands, Angus, Moray, Orkney Islands, the Highlands – all of them will see population declines of up to 16% between mid-2018 and mid-2043. There is undoubtedly a population crisis, particularly acute in our rural areas.”

She added: “As a small nation, Scotland doesn’t just welcome immigrants, we need them.”