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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 18:47 GMT
Curry industry 'could die' claim
Indian restaurant staff say immigration laws are too strict
The curry industry will die if action is not taken to address tough new immigration laws, restaurant bosses have warned the Scottish Parliament.

They claim food quality will deteriorate and up to half of the Indian restaurants currently in business could shut.

The comments came as 100 restaurateurs staged a protest at Holyrood over the changes to immigration rules.

They claim a shortage of kitchen staff has been created as a result.

Restaurant owners said legislation which came in at the end of February makes it harder for them to bring in staff from outside the European Union.

Our chefs don't need to speak English - their curry talks
Foysol Choudhury
Bangladesh Samity Association

Foysol Choudhury, general secretary of the Bangladesh Samity Association in Edinburgh, criticised new rules requiring immigrants to speak English and have an academic qualification.

"Our chefs don't need to speak English. Their curry talks," he said.

"Whoever comes into my restaurant for a job will have to start as a kitchen porter and then he will have to climb the ladder.

"A kitchen porter gets a minimum wage. Somebody with academic qualifications is not going to accept that.

"The Indian restaurant industry contributes 3.2bn to the British economy. What is the British Government doing to save this industry?"

'Key skills'

Asked about the consequences if action was not taken to tackle the issue, he said: "Half of the restaurants will close and we'll lose the food quality.

"Eventually this industry will die."

Edinburgh entrepreneur Tommy Miah, who is involved in the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition, added: "We're going to suffer big time. You guys won't be able to have chicken tikka masala anymore.

"I've been offered a couple of other restaurants to take but I've said I can't do it because I'm struggling with one restaurant."

Immigration laws are reserved to Westminster, but Thursday's protest was about urging MSPs to lobby politicians in London on the issue.

First Minister Alex Salmond, a well-known curry fan, said the issue was "really serious".

Speaking as he met demonstrators, he said he would continue to draw the UK Government's attention to the matter.

He said: "If people can't get the skilled staff then they can't operate their restaurants, and if they can't operate their restaurants then that's damaging for the economy and the social life of Scotland. It's something we feel very strongly about.

"Ideally, the new system shouldn't have discriminated and prevented people coming in with key skills."

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