NICOLA Sturgeon has branded the UK Government's immigration proposals "an act of vandalism" as she called for a visa allowing Europeans to work in Scotland even if they earned less than £30,000.

Earlier, Sajid Javid announced that low-skilled workers and those earning under the £30,000 threshold would no longer have the automatic right to work in the UK after Brexit.

The Home Secretary said the decision would bring immigration down to "sustainable levels" while Theresa May stressed that it remained the UK Government's target to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands".

However, the First Minister declared: "The UK Government's immigration blueprint is an act of vandalism on Scotland's economy, communities, NHS and public services.

"Yet again, they are intent on imposing disastrous policies on Scotland with no consultation with the Scottish Government, despite our repeated attempts to engage.”

Ms Sturgeon insisted the Conservative Government's proposals took absolutely no account of Scotland's distinctive needs.

“The White Paper itself suggests that it may result in an 85 per cent reduction in the number of EEA workers to Scotland; this will be catastrophic for communities and businesses across the whole of Scotland, particularly for key sectors such as tourism, hospitality and the care sector.”

The FM stressed how there was growing support from businesses and organisations across the country for a differentiated solution for Scotland.

"Our proposal is for a visa specific to Scotland; to allow people to come and work in Scotland under the threshold of the £30,000 salary band. It is time for the UK Government to listen to the needs of Scotland and act accordingly," she said.

Ms Sturgeon cited estimates that real GDP in Scotland would be approximately 6.2 per cent lower by 2040 because of the Brexit-driven reduction in migration, equivalent to a fall of £2 billion in Government revenue over the period.

"This,” she declared, “is an unacceptable price for Scotland to pay."

However, David Mundell defended the proposal, saying: "The Immigration White Paper provides a strong foundation for delivering what businesses and individuals in Scotland want: a UK-wide immigration system with the flexibility to meet the needs of all sectors of the economy in all parts of the country.

"Our 12-month engagement with business will allow us to develop a future immigration system which addresses the specific economic and demographic needs in Scotland,” explained the Scottish Secretary.

He stressed: "At the same time, the Scottish Government must do more to shoulder their share of the responsibility for making Scotland an attractive place for people to live, work and put down roots."

Following publication of the immigration proposals, the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland called for "an urgent rethink", warning the plans would have a disproportionate impact on firms north of the border.

Andrew McRae, its Scotland Policy Chairman, said: "The UK Government's obstinate approach to immigration is a clear threat to many of Scotland's businesses and local communities.

"These proposals will make it nigh impossible for the vast majority of Scottish firms to access any non-UK labour and the skills they need to grow and sustain their operations."

FSB research has found that small businesses in Scotland are more reliant on labour and skills from the EU compared to the UK as a whole.

"Requiring employers to grapple with what is currently a clunky and costly immigration system to hire international talent will have significant implications for the small business community in Scotland. The risk is this makes small business owners into de-facto immigration officers,” said Mr McRae.

He added: "The proposed system also puts a lot of faith on Whitehall officials to predict the skills needs of a Dundonian manufacturer or a Highland hotelier years in advance. This reliance on state central planning is not the hallmark of a dynamic, responsive trading environment."

Willie Rennie for the Scottish Liberal Democrats said the Government’s immigration plans would “bring chaos, not control,” noting how “Scotland depends on immigration, from our farms to our NHS".

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative backbencher Kirstene Hair also expressed concerns about the £30,000 salary threshold and low-skilled sectors.

"Many healthcare, hospitality, agricultural and fisheries jobs do not meet the salary floor or skill level in the proposals outlined, which could prevent these vital workers coming to the UK to work and contribute to our economy.”

The Angus MP said that she would be calling for “exemptions” where there were shortages in those important sectors to ensure “our future immigration policy addresses specific economic and demographic needs in Scotland and across the UK".