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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February, 2005, 16:08 GMT
Talent spotting for economy boost
Immigration centre
Jack McConnell believes the policy will ease depopulation
First Minister Jack McConnell has outlined measures to help Scottish businesses attract fresh talent during a visit to a Greenock call centre.

His visit marked the first anniversary of the Scottish Executive's Fresh Talent policy.

The initiative encourages foreign workers to come to Scotland and has been identified as a way to tackle depopulation.

Mr McConnell said he wanted to attract the world's "brightest and best".

The first minister visited IBM Greenock, which has a 1,000-strong international workforce from more than 20 different countries.

If we nurture and retain our home-grown talent, while attracting fresh talent from abroad, then Scotland's future prosperity can be secured
First Minister Jack McConnell

The executive has an agreement with the Home Office for a two-year "leave to remain scheme" for all overseas students who graduate from a Scottish university or get an HND from a college. The scheme will come into effect in the summer.

Mr McConnell has identified depopulation as a threat to Scotland's future prosperity and said he believed the Fresh Talent initiative was the best way to tackle the problem.

He said: "We are working with businesses, big and small, to make it easy for them to attract staff from overseas.

Business support

"If we nurture and retain our home-grown talent, while attracting fresh talent from abroad, then Scotland's future prosperity can be secured."

The Fresh Talent policy has been welcomed by business leaders, including CBI Scotland, whose director Iain McMillan described it as "critical to Scotland's future".

In January, the first minister launched the Relocation Advisory Service in Glasgow.

The service has already taken 1,000 calls from people overseas, most of which were about visas, work permits, housing and other relating information.

'Toolkit' package

Most of the queries have come from the US, India, Poland and Nigeria.

Mr McConnell announced what he said was "the UK's first toolkit to help small businesses navigate the work permit system".

There will also be two new posts within the relocation advisory service to advise employers on how to recruit from overseas and to help complete work permit applications.

The Tories' enterprise and lifelong learning spokesman, Murdo Fraser, said: "The Fresh Talent Initiative is nothing more than a gimmick to try and demonstrate that the first minister is addressing our falling population."

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party leader at Holyrood, said: "Last year the first minister said we needed action to keep talented Scots in Scotland, but nothing has been done and the announcement is completely silent on this aspect of the policy."

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