Brexit has “turned off the tap” of workers in Scotland, leading to labour shortages in various sectors, External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson has said.
A report from the Royal Bank of Scotland released on Friday shows a near-record number of job vacancies in the country, but also the second harshest drop in the number of applicants for permanent positions since the survey was first run in 2008.
Mr Robertson has blamed leaving the EU for the shortage, but the UK Government has repeatedly insisted other countries outside Europe are experiencing similar demand for staff.
“The reason for (the shortages) is quite simple, it’s part of the more general population challenge that we have in Scotland, it’s that Brexit has turned off the tap, has seen a significant number of people return to the European continent and there are simply not enough people living here to fill important roles in our economy,” he said on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.
“The UK Government is pretending that this is not a serious problem and is certainly denying that Brexit has a significant role in it.
“This was their decision, they decided to pursue a hard Brexit, to take us out of the single European market and end the freedom of movement.”
Mr Robertson accepted there were problems in countries outside Europe, but said those on the continent were not being hit as hard by shortages.
“I spent some time this week looking at the reporting from state broadcasters, from Poland to Germany to France to Italy and a number of others, and not a single one of them was reporting the same level of problems as there are in the UK – absolutely none of them,” he said.
“I know that government ministers in London want to pretend that this has nothing to do with Brexit, it has an awful lot to do with Brexit and this is a problem for us.”
Mr Robertson met immigration minister Kevin Foster this week, but said he refused to accede to any of the “top level” requests from the Scottish Government, including a 24-month worker visa programme.
He said: “We’re not going to get it and the reason we’re not going to get it is because the UK Government is not prepared to listen and to agree to proposals that are being made by the Scottish Government.”
Mr Robertson went on to say the only way Scotland can shore up its labour market is to become independent and return to the EU.