CHANGES to the UK's immigration system are an "insult to Scotland", according to the SNP.

The new policy will not include a visa option for low-skilled migrant workers after Brexit and employers "will need to adjust", the Government has said.

A policy statement outlining plans for a new points-based system after freedom of movement ends said the economy needs to move away from a reliance on "cheap labour from Europe".

Scottish Migration Minister Ben Macpherson hit out at the new plan, saying: “The UK Government’s immigration proposals are an insult to Scotland – they completely disregard the needs of our employers, our public services and our communities.

“There is a clear need for a fundamentally different approach to migration policy to reflect Scotland’s distinct demographic and geographical needs."

A Scottish visa system  tackling the country's post-Brexit needs was rejected by the PM last month. 

READ MORE: Boris Johnson claims separate Scottish visa plan is 'deranged'

The UK immigration changes are designed to cut the number of low-skilled migrants entering Britain from the beginning of next year but aim to make it easier for higher-skilled workers to get UK visas.

The "firm and fair" system will instead "attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services", according to the paper.

Published on Wednesday, it said: "We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route.

"We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation.

"Employers will need to adjust."

But the EU Settlement Scheme, designed to give EU citizens permission to stay and work in the UK after Brexit, will "provide employers with flexibility to meet labour market demands", it said.

The document added: "We recognise that these proposals represent significant change for employers in the UK and we will deliver a comprehensive programme of communication and engagement in the coming months.

"We will keep labour market data under careful scrutiny to monitor any pressures in key sectors."

SNP Shadow Immigration Minister Stuart McDonald said: "The Tories have had 42 months to develop proposals for a new migration system and they’ve come up with a half-finished and disastrous one size-fits-no-one policy that poses a very real threat to Scotland and leaves businesses and the public with just 10 months to prepare for it. Instead of a much vaunted new ‘Australian Points Based system’, they’ve simply tweaked the failed policies of the past.

“Free movement is about the only bit of the UK migration system that works well – we should retain it, not scrap it. Ending it will be bad for business and bad for the economy, and risks putting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of EU citizens in jeopardy."

Employers will have until January 1 2021 to meet the requirements and ensure their staff have a right to work in the UK.

The GMB union said the new system is a risk to the economy. 

General secretary, Tim Roache, said: "This is a knee-jerk policy that poses huge risks to the economy. This could genuinely tip some businesses over the edge. 

“The Home Secretary has started a ticking clock with seemingly no plan and failed to provide any strategy to secure and sustain key industries. 

“This policy doesn’t tackle the root causes of many people’s concern - the exploitation of workers, whoever they are, by cynical employers has created a race to the bottom in terms, conditions and pay."

The decision comes after campaigners warned that putting up barriers on hiring staff from overseas could cause "huge difficulties" in social care and may prevent carers being able to come to the UK to work.

Last month, independent adviser the Migration Advisory Committee said replacing freedom of movement with a points-based immigration system after Brexit could cut economic growth and may only lead to small improvements in standards of living.

The Government's proposed overhaul of migration rules could have "zero effect" on providing more British jobs for British workers, it was also suggested.

Under the plans, the UK will have "full control over who comes to this country" for the "first time in decades, the paper pledged.

EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally but "top priority" will be given to those with "the highest skills and the greatest talents", like scientists, engineers and academics, the paper said.

The salary threshold for skilled migrants will be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600 for those coming to the UK with a job offer.

Described in the policy paper as "simple, effective and flexible", people who want to live and work in the UK will need to gain 70 points to be eligible 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.

Other points will be awarded for certain qualifications and if there is a shortage in a particular occupation.

The paper added: "We will deliver a system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK and prioritises the skills a person has to offer, not where they come from.

"For too long, distorted by European free movement rights, the immigration system has been failing to meet the needs of the British people.

"Our approach will change all of this."