THE NEW points-based immigration plans will be a ‘hammer-blow’ to Scotland’s economy and is a “slap in the face” for vital care workers.

Critics have lashed out at Priti Patel’s new system for migration to the UK, arguing it does nothing for those who have been essential in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

The Home Secretary published updated details of the system, first announced in February, but it emerged care workers were not on the list of skilled staff.

Ms Patel said the new “fairer, firmer and skills-led” points-based immigration system would mean the UK was “ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent”.

It is due to come into force on January 1, 2021, following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Donald Macaskill, head of industry body Scottish Care, hit out at the plans after it emerged care workers or lower-paid NHS staff, who have been essential during the pandemic, will not be able to come to the UK easily.

People who want to live and work in the UK will need 70 points to apply for a visa.

Points will be awarded for key requirements like being able to speak English to a certain level, having a job offer from an approved employer, and meeting a minimum salary threshold.

Some NHS health professionals, including social workers, will be able to apply for a specific health and care visa, designed to be quicker and cheaper, but this route will not be open to care workers, Downing Street confirmed.

Although senior care staff or managers may meet a “skilled” worker threshold for a visa, the vast majority of care workers would not be eligible, according to officials.

Other visa options for young people, students and graduates – and those granted to relatives of work visa applicants – may still allow foreign workers to get jobs in the care sector but there is no dedicated employment route for the industry.

Mr Macaskill said: “What an utter slap in the face for the care sector from Priti Patel, who thought care workers were low-skilled in February and clearly their Covid-19 professionalism hasn’t changed her mind. Shameful lack of value of social care.”

Trade union GMB described the new rules as “an embarrassing shambles” yesterday, with the National Secretary Rehana Azam saying:”The Government’s new immigration rules makes no acknowledgement of the vital job care workers have been doing these past few months.

“The proposed ‘Health and Care Visa’ apparently fails to include care workers and NHS contractors within its scope – and imposes salary thresholds that would prevent most underpaid care workers and many NHS porters, cleaners, from qualifying for in any event.

“Who will keep our hospitals running and our care home going when ministers pull up the drawbridge?

“At a time when care is facing its greatest ever crisis, and with care homes reliant on hundreds of thousands of workers from outside Europe and facing staffing shortfalls, ministers are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. “

According to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, 741,000 current key workers born abroad would have been ineligible for a visa under the new rules across the UK, including 22% of carers and 26% of security guards.

Co-Leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, said the plans would be a “hammer blow” for Scotland.

He said: “It comes as little surprise that the institutionally racist Home Office wants to make it harder for people from other countries to move here. The impact of this policy will be devastating for Scotland.

“This idiotic Tory immigration plan will come as a hammer blow to the Scottish economy at a time when the coronavirus crisis and the impact of Brexit are already causing so much damage.”

The Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “These Conservative immigration plans will be a disaster for the small businesses that power the UK economy, just as they are struggling to survive the coronavirus crisis.

“Key sectors like construction and hospitality, already facing enormous challenges, will face staffing shortages. The existing social care crisis will get even worse as there is so little time to prepare for this new system.”

Stuart McDonald, SNP MP, added: “This pretend points-based system will see families split apart, businesses drowned in red tape and unable to recruit, and EU citizens stripped of their rights overnight. It will be a disaster for Scotland.

“Even the much-hyped ‘health and social care visa’ is a con trick and if this system had come into effect before coronavirus, we’d be at a standstill right now.

“It’s taken the Home Office four years to come up with a new immigration system and they decide to apply the existing policies for non-EEA citizens to EU citizens, despite the overwhelming input from devolved nations and businesses who have said this will not work for them.

“Time and again, the UK government has failed to address Scotland’s economic, demographic and social needs.”