Anas Sarwar says UK net migration 'too high' as he backs Labour plan to improve skills

Anas Sarwar visits a food poverty charity in Scotstoun while campaigning for Labour's Glasgow West candidate
-Credit: (Image: Tony Nicoletti / Daily Record)

Anas Sarwar has backed a plan to cut net migration to the UK if Keir Starmer becomes the next prime minister.

Labour pledged this week it would reduce the need for overseas workers by improving training for young people and adults looking to change jobs.

Starmer has criticised the Tory Government at Westminster for having "repeatedly broken their promises" to reduce net migration.

Figures published after Rishi Sunak called the general election last month showed a net of 685,000 arrived in the UK last year - down from a record of 764,000 in 2022.

Asked by the Record if he agreed with Starmer that net migration was "sky high", and needed to be reduced, the Scottish Labour leader said: "If you look across the UK at our net migration figures, then yes, it is too high. And the net migration figures have sky-rocketed.

"The challenge we face in different parts of the UK, particularly here in Scotland, is whether we are getting the balance right in terms of the right skills in the right places to help us with our needs.

"Right now, we have a failure to properly workforce plan our NHS. It means we are not teaching young people, or those who have lost their job in another sector, the appropriate skills to come and work in Scotland's health and social care system."

Net migration is much lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK and is the sole driver of the country's modest population growth in recent years.

The most recent figures found 27,800 more people moving to Scotland than left in the year to mid-2021. This represented net migration of 8,900 from the rest of the UK, and 18,900 from international migration.

Speaking on a general election campaign stop in Scotstoun, Sarwar continued: "When you fail to properly upskill your own workforce, or to appropriately pay your workforce, that puts a heavier burden on trying to meet those workforce gaps through migration.

"We need to match our immigration system with our skills system, so we meet our short-term needs through immigration, but we are investing in our young people and the skills of the future to meet those demands in the medium-to-longer term."

The Glasgow MSP added: "I know there is a lot of dog whistle on this kind of debate, that some people try and pretend that if you are talking about immigration systems, that means you're anti-migrant. Far from it.

"You can be proud of our migrant communities, you can recognise the huge role immigrants have made in this country, and I should know that with my own family, you can recognise that migrants make a disproportionately positive contribution to Scotland and the UK, but every country needs a strong immigration system."

Powers over immigration are reserved to Westminster and the current system has been repeatedly criticised by the Scottish Government, which argues Scotland needs to attract more people of working age to the country.

SNP candidate Alison Thewliss said: "Anas Sarwar has just revealed his party’s ignorance to the unique challenges Scotland and our NHS face.

"His short-sighted obedience to the right-wing immigration rhetoric of his London-based boss, Keir Starmer, is yet more proof that only a vote for the SNP on July 4 can put Scotland first.

"We know Sir Keir’s position aligns closely with the Tories, whose plans spell danger for our NHS, but to hear Anas Sarwar come out in agreement shows that he will always obey his marching orders from London.

"Scotland requires an immigration system which welcomes people and a system suited to our specific economic needs."

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