NICOLA Sturgeon has added her voice to growing calls for a reintroduction of the post-study work visa scheme.
The First Minister said she was “deeply disappointed and angry” that the UK Government had no plans for a new programme to let overseas students live and work in Scotland for a period after graduating.
Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell appeared to rule out the move in a statement to parliament earlier this year.
He back-tracked this week following an outcry from colleges, universities and MSPs on all sides, saying he would consider any detailed proposals that were brought forward.
Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee is holding an inquiry into post study work visas and may produce recommendations.
Commenting for the first time, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the issue had been raised in meetings between Scottish and UK ministers and officials since the Smith Commission on further devolution agreed it should be considered further.
She added: “We are therefore deeply disappointed, and I have to say I’m rather angry, that the Secretary of State for Scotland recently indicated, without any real consultation, that there is no intention on the part of the UK Government of reintroducing the post study work visa for Scotland.
“I understand that the UK Immigration Minister intends to meet with the cross-party Post Study Work Steering Group and I would expect, and certainly hope, the UK Government to take the concerns of the Scottish Government and indeed the united voice of Scottish stakeholders fully on board.
“I believe there is a consensus in this parliament and out there in Scotland to reintroduce the post-study work visa – and I think it’s time the UK Government got on and did it.”
The cross party steering group, chaired by Europe minister Humza Yousaf, was set-up last year to press for a new scheme.
Post-study work visas were first introduced in 2005 as part of then-first minister Jack McConnell’s Fresh Talent initiative to grow the population.Overseas graduates were allowed to stay and work in Scotland for an extra two years.
The scheme was credited with making Scottish courses more attractive to overseas students and with boosting the economy. However, it was dropped in 2012.
Mr Mundell said existing graduate schemes were “excellent” when he appeared to rule out a return of the visa earlier this year.His comments were echoed by David Cameron when he was challenged over the scheme during Prime Minister’s Questions last week.
SNP MSP John Mason, who questioned the First Minister at Holyrood, said: “There was unanimous disappointment among both politicians and stakeholders when David Mundell ruled out the reinstatement of the post-study work visa last week.
“The Secretary of State’s apparent volte-face at the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this week was therefore a welcome development.
“But this apparent u-turn must be followed up by concrete action, and David Mundell must now take the case to his colleagues in government – otherwise the suspicion will remain that he is Whitehall’s man in Scotland, rather than Scotland’s man in Whitehall.”
Published on :http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14221457.Sturgeon_enters_row_over_post_study_work_visas/