MICHAEL Gove has called for a rethink of a controversial £30,000 salary threshold for migrant workers after Brexit, amid warnings it would have a disastrous impact on Scotland.

The Environment Secretary said he had lobbied Home Secretary Sajid Javid to “look flexibly” at the rules for skilled workers in specific industries, such as in the food and drink sector.

Plans unveiled last year will mean 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.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has branded the immigration blueprint “an act of vandalism”, while Scottish Tory figures have also raised concerns the salary threshold is too high for Scotland.

Mr Gove was asked about the issue during a meeting of Holyrood’s rural economy committee, with SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson raising concerns over the “significant vacancy levels” that currently exist in the north-east’s fish processing industry.

He said vacancies are already at 30 per cent in certain firms – limiting their ability to capture the full economic value of greater catches.

Mr Gove agreed that “pitching the level at which you defined a skilled worker as someone earning more than £30,000 a year wasn’t actually responsive to the particular needs – not just of the fish processing sector but of the food and drink sector overall”.

He said he had visited Nolan Seafoods in Aberdeen a fortnight ago and appreciated “the vital importance of making sure that you have access to talent, both home grown and from abroad”.

He added: “There are people who are highly skilled working in processing, who will earn less than £30,000 and we must make sure we have access to that talent.

“Anyone who has seen the state-of-the-art facilities at somewhere like Nolan Seafoods will appreciate it is absolutely at the cutting edge of technology.

“But it is also the case that you need skilled manual labour alongside it in order to ensure high quality seafood is delivered in the way the customer wants.

“So you are absolutely right and one of the points I have made to the Home Secretary and others is that we need to look flexibly in making sure we interpret what a skilled worker is in line with the needs of specific industries.”

It comes after Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, called for the £30,000 salary threshold to be ditched last week.

Critics fear the plans, currently the subject of a consultation, would hammer key sections of the economy as well as vital public services like the NHS.

Research recently revealed 1.5 million jobs in Scotland pay under the threshold.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet is also reportedly divided on the proposals, which already apply to most non-EU workers.

Elsewhere, Mr Gove, who is tipped to stand in the next Conservative leadership contest, called for “an open approach” to immigration when asked about seasonal workers.

He added: “I also think that the soft fruit sector, which is so important in Angus and Ayrshire, does need to have access to all the labour it needs.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene asked about an immigration pilot scheme allowing the recruitment of up to 2,500 workers on six-month visas between the spring of 2019 and December 2020.

Mr Gove said: “There has been an enthusiastic take-up of places on our seasonal agricultural workers pilot and we’ve been recruiting from just beyond the EU, in places like the Ukraine and Moldova .

“The pilot at the moment is smaller than some would have wanted but I think that the enthusiastic take-up helps us to make the case for a potential expansion of numbers that come in through the seasonal agricultural workers scheme.”

Speaking to another Holyrood committee, he insisted the Scottish Parliament will receive powers in devolved areas which are being returned to the UK after Brexit.

It follows claims a Westminster “power grab” risks undermining the devolution settlement.

But Mr Gove was criticised after failing to commit to following the advice of the Committee on Climate Change to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.