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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Summit 'should hear Scots voice'
Immigration centre - generic
The Scottish Executive wants to attract skilled migrants
A business leader has voiced surprise that the Scottish Executive is not represented at a summit on immigration.

First Minister Jack McConnell has stressed the need to attract more migrant workers to Scotland.

John Downie, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said he would have expected Scotland to be represented at the meeting chaired by Tony Blair.

But Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said talks had already taken place with the prime minister and home secretary.

Tuesday's summit in London is aimed at drawing up an action plan for closing immigration loopholes.

It follows the resignation of Beverley Hughes, who has been replaced as immigration minister by Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP Des Browne.

Future prosperity

The home secretary, the attorney general, MPs and representatives of MI5 are attending the meeting.

Mr McConnell has warned that population decline is the greatest threat to Scotland's future prosperity.

In February, he unveiled his Fresh Talent initiative, which aims to attract 8,000 new people each year.

Under the plans Scotland will be promoted within the work permit system and foreign students will be given visas to stay and work for two years after they graduate.

It is one of the most important issues for us, it is one of the most important issues for the executive
John Downie
Federation of Small Businesses

Mr Downie told BBC Radio Scotland that economic migration did benefit Scotland.

"Businesses have severe skill shortages in particular sectors and across the board large, medium and small businesses are crying out for more skilled staff.

"Very clearly for Scotland migration is good and the Fresh Talent initiative launched by the executive has the buy-in from across the business community and the political community in Scotland."

He said economic migrants were bringing new skills and filling gaps across a range of industries, such as manufacturing, cleaning and security.

"Most importantly, one of the things we get from our members is that they have a different attitude to work," he said.

"They are bringing enthusiasm, they want to work, they want a job, they want to get on."

Tartan Day

Mr Downie said he was surprised that the Scottish Executive was not represented at Tuesday's meeting.

"It is one of the most important issues for us, it is one of the most important issues for the executive," he said.

"I would have expected, even if the first minister and other ministers are in the US for Tartan Day, that we would have seen officials being very clear at that meeting and putting the Scottish point of view.

"We want people coming to Scotland and we want to fast track them through the bureaucratic Home Office procedures so that we can get them the jobs that they are skilled for and that they want."

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson said Scottish representation was not needed
Ms Jamieson said she agreed with Mr Downie but disagreed on the need for Scottish Executive representation at the summit.

"Jack McConnell has made it very very clear his views on bringing fresh talent in," she said.

"He has already had discussions with the home secretary and the prime minister and we are very very clear about what we need to do to attract people to Scotland.

"It is not a question of just a one-off discussion at a meeting, and it is not a question of people being too busy to attend."

She said the executive would work with its UK counterparts on managed migration.

"Jack McConnell was ahead of the game in speaking to the home secretary on this matter," added Ms Jamieson.

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