The UK Government must introduce a “skilled migration strategy which is tailored to the needs of the Scottish economy”, amid widespread and increased difficulties for companies in attracting and retaining talent, a business leader has declared.

Stephen Leckie, president of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, also highlighted his view that divergences on personal taxation between Scotland and the rest of the UK have exacerbated the “significant labour challenges” being faced by companies north of the Border.

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The divergence in the income tax burden for higher earners in Scotland and that for those elsewhere in the UK was increased further in last December’s Scottish Budget. Mr Leckie’s comments come as Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s latest survey, published today, shows 55% of companies experiencing recruitment challenges in the second quarter. This is up from 47% in the previous quarter.

This rise has been driven by increases across the retail and tourism sectors, Scottish Chambers noted.

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Mr Leckie said: “Our report also shows that over half of Scottish businesses are continuing to experience significant costs and challenges with attracting and retaining the talent they need. The UK Government should address this by introducing a skilled migration strategy which is tailored to the needs of the Scottish economy, and restore our reputation as a welcoming and open destination for international students to study, live and work.”

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He added: “Taxation continues to concern firms, to the extent that the issue has overtaken inflation as the leading concern. This is having a major impact in attracting and retaining talent in Scotland, contributing to the significant labour challenges many businesses are already experiencing. Divergence on personal taxation has exacerbated the issue. Businesses will be looking to both the Scottish and UK [governments] to set out long-term plans to address the current state of taxation, which is impacting growth, investment and talent.”