Reform call

SFE calls for new tax and immigration strategies

IFSD Glasgow
Financial services are a crucial part of the Scottish economy (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotland’s key financial services sector is calling for the UK and Scottish governments to work more closely together to develop a long-term strategy on tax and skills.

Trade body Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) wants a tailored approach to Scotland that will “remove barriers and empower industry to deliver growth”.

In its general election manifesto, being published tomorrow, it says the two governments need to “deliver meaningful public sector reform to reduce tax and regulatory burdens and improve efficiency of public services.”

Its recommendations include tackling the specific workforce needs of the Scottish economy through reform of the immigration system, such as a review of student visas and new funding models for Scottish universities and colleges.

The manifesto will be launched at the Holyrood Sources Economy Hustings in Edinburgh. Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes, Scottish Conservative Economy Spokesperson Murdo Fraser, Scottish Labour Economy Spokesperson Michael Marra and Scottish Liberal Democrat Economy Spokesperson Willie Rennie will all be asked to give their backing to the document.

Scottish Financial Enterprise’s chief executive Sandy Begbie said: “Delivering sustainable economic growth is vital if we want to raise living standards and improve public services.”

Financial and professional services in Scotland already contribute more than £14.3 billion GVA to the UK economy each year, employing almost 150,000 people.

SFE’s sector growth strategy, published last year, outlines a plan to increase that contribution by £7bn each year by 2028.

“To achieve that … means government working with and not against business, and a commitment from all parties to put economic growth at the heart of government,” said Mr Begbie.

The demand for a review of immigration to help meet local skills problems is rising up the agenda, with Ms Forbes recently re-visiting the proposed rural workers’ visa, first suggested by the Scottish government in 2022.

She said this would help ease a growing labour shortage in the Highlands where major renewables projects will create thousands of jobs.

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