THE HOME Office must introduce a rural pilot scheme for immigration or permit a Scottish visa to mitigate damage caused by the new points-based system, according to the Scottish Government.

As revealed earlier this week, the UK is set to bring in a raft of new restrictions for migrants looking to work in the country, with those classed as low-skilled being given little opportunity to enter.

Experts claimed Scotland would be worst hit, due to the demographic need for migrants to boost population growth and the employment challenges in rural areas.

Westminster's own Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended that a rural pilot scheme be introduced for parts of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to ensure migrants could still work in areas which "face more complex challenges in recruitment and retention of workers”.

The report released last month stated: "There should be a separate pilot visa for ‘remote’ areas of the UK, part of which could be lower salary thresholds for migrants into those areas. This should only be done with a full evaluation to understand its effectiveness and impacts.”

However in the policy revealed on Tuesday by Priti Patel, no mention of the scheme was made, prompting concern from Scottish business owners and politicians that it may not happen at all.

The Scottish Government said it was deeply concerned that the proposals have not been mentioned since they were recommended by MAC, and demanded Westminster seriously consider its suggestions of implementing a Scottish visa.

Some in the hospitality, tourism and agriculture sectors have already told of how the plans would cripple their businesses, with some firms employing 100% of their workers who are not from the UK.

Home Secretary Patel said that if businesses foresee problems with the plan, they should automate their processes or find a different way of working, promoting further outcry up and down the country.

The Scottish Government's Migration Minister Ben Macpherson has today reiterated the calls for a rural pilot scheme, and has urged Boris Johnson's Government to ensure it is in the policy before changes take effect in January 2021.

He said: "The Scottish Government and many others across the business community and the third sector have made it unequivocally clear to the UK Government that their immigration plans would deeply damage Scotland’s economic, social and demographic prosperity.

“The proposals would be catastrophic for rural areas, which are particularly dependent on migration to sustain local communities and public services, so it is deeply worrying that the UK Government does not appear to mention anywhere in these latest proposals their own prior commitment to running rural migration pilots.

“The Scottish Government put forward a clear, workable proposal for devolving immigration powers and introducing a Scottish visa, which would allow Scotland to attract and retain people with the skills and attributes we need for all our communities and economy to flourish.

“The UK Government must now seriously engage with these proposals, which have widespread support across Scotland.”

A Home Office spokesman told The Herald on Sunday there were several elements of the policy on immigration still being discussed, with further announcements to be made in the coming months.

They could not confirm if the rural pilot schemes would be part of these announcements, but said that applying different immigration rules to different parts of the UK would overly complicate the immigration system and cause significant difficulties for employers who need the flexibility to deploy their staff across the UK.

A spokeswoman said: "The UK points-based immigration system will work in the interests of the whole country – Scotland included.

“It will attract the brightest and the best from around the globe, boost the economy and our communities as well as ending free movement bringing overall migration numbers down.”