FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon and one of the new intake of MSPs at Holyrood have written to Home Secretary Theresa May, urging her to reconsider the case for allowing a young Australian family to remain in Scotland.

Gregg and Kathryn Brain and their seven-year-old son Lachlan – whose first language is Gaelic – have been living in Dingwall for almost five years after coming to Scotland as part of an initiative to repopulate the Highlands. Kathryn studied for her degree as a fee-paying international student in the University of the Highland and Islands BA (Hons) Scottish Cultural Studies programme, and had planned to work in the Scottish heritage industry.

Their hopes of being able to stay here permanently depended on one of them securing a job that satisfied Home Office visa regulations – two potential jobs fell through and they have been told they have to leave by the end of this month.

In her letter to May, Sturgeon wrote: “I fear this is another example of the inflexibilities of the UK immigration system resulting in Scotland losing talented individuals who have studied at our universities and contributed to our economy. We need an immigration system in Scotland that meets our own needs and our continuous calls for the reinstatement of the post-study work route in Scotland would help to address these needs.”

Kate Forbes, the new SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, asked the Home Secretary to intervene to allow the family to stay here.

“Gregg, Kathryn and Lachlan Brain are an integral part of our Highland community and have contributed economically, culturally and socially to the Highlands,” she said. “In the constituency which I have recently been elected to serve at Holyrood we need more families like the Brains and threatening them with deportation undermines efforts to make the Highlands thrive.

“I am grateful that the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has granted an extension to the Brain family’s visa. However, I am asking you to go further and allow them the necessary visa to stay and work in the Highlands.

“This would allow Lachlan to continue his Gaelic medium education and both Gregg and Kathryn to continue earning a living in Scotland and contributing positively to their community.”

She added: “The family are a great asset to the Highlands and their deportation would be a travesty, not only for the Brains themselves, but for those who have had the benefit of living, studying and working with them.”

Kathryn told The National last night that their MSP had captured the whole community’s thoughts in her letter.

She added: “All we’re asking for from the UK Government and the Home Office is to honour their original promise to grant us the tier 1, two-year post-study work visa which was the final chapter of the programme we’d signed up for as part of the Highland Homecoming and Fresh Talent programmes.

“That would solve the problems with our visas in the short to medium-term.

“The Home Office have proven they can grandfather other clauses when it comes to relaxing some immigration policies, such as the 10-year private life route, so they should be able to do this in our case too, given the integration we have made into our community.”

The family’s MP Ian Blackford said they should be welcome in Scotland. He said: “We need families that want to settle in the Highlands and critically in this place play a part in the revival of Gaelic. I would happily support any appeal to the Government in London. We need to keep the pressure up and, in this regard, the widespread community support and from further afield that has been shown, I know, is much appreciated by the family.”

You can sign the petition to support the family here