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COLUMN: John Shearer

COLUMN: John Shearer

SLTA President John Shearer shares his views on Westminster’s suggested minimum wage of £30,000 for incoming labour.

SLTA was recently invited to the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland conference Cork. Cork and surrounding areas such as Killarney are witnessing booming business, fuelled by a growth in incoming European labour mainly from Poland and Lithuania.

You must be asking yourselves: where are all the applicants this year from Eastern Europe. Guess what – they’re all in Ireland!

Southern Ireland is a beautiful place and businesses there are welcoming incoming labour with open arms. Why would you come to Scotland or the UK?

Post-Brexit, the Westminster Government wants to set the minimum wage for incoming labour at £30,000. The key point here is that while London may be able to afford to do this, the rest of the country can’t.

The Scottish Government is lobbying to have immigration devolved to Scotland – and this should be supported as it would allow Scotland to set its own parameters on preferred industries and levels of wage.

This is probably one of the best ideas to come out of Holyrood and I’m sure it would have cross-party support.

We are also calling on the Scottish Government to make hospitality a “preferred profession”. While we are not perhaps going to get many Oxford dons looking to move into the hard-working industry that is hospitality, we do need flexibility to encourage local and incoming labour to consider a career in our sector.

Hospitality offers an opportunity to stay in Scotland and not have to go south of the Border for employment. At the same time, it can help people develop key skills which they can take with them if they decide they do want to travel.

Of course, we would all want to pay our employees as much as possible but the number suggested is a London number, not a practical number.

Our pubs, restaurants and hotels are working hard to grow their business and opportunities – yet just as we see tourism growing, our potential foreign labour market is heading to Ireland.

The Scottish and Westminster parliaments can solve this by devolving immigration and sending a message Scotland that is open for business – and it’s a nice place to live.

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