THE Tories have been accused of "damaging" and "callous" plans for the “biggest-ever reduction” in net migration, as new figures reveal the potential impact on key sectors in Scotland.

Home Secretary James Cleverly outlined a raft of new restrictions on legal migration in December, which he said will slash the number of people arriving in Britain by 300,000 a year.

But the SNP and trade unions have warned the proposals are causing “distress” with concerns over the impact on family life, while Scottish care sector representatives say the UK Government’s approach risks putting off international staff at a time of recruitment difficulties.

The measures set to be implemented include increasing the salary threshold a skilled worker from overseas will be required to earn, and stopping overseas care workers and most international students from bringing dependants.

READ MORE: Key questions around Cleverly’s immigration shake-up

There will be changes to the shortage occupation list to significantly reduce the number of jobs where it will be possible to sponsor overseas workers below the baseline minimum salary.

The minimum income normally required to sponsor someone for a spouse/partner visa will now rise in stages from £18,600 to £29,000 and ultimately to around £38,700.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss (below) asked the UK Government to provide information assessments carried out on the proposed changes to visa salary thresholds, broken down by each of the countries of the UK.

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In a written House of Commons response, Immigration Minister Tom Pursglove pointed to an “initial assessment” which has been carried out.

The document only provides UK figures, but it estimates a reduction of 140,000 student dependants, 120,000 care worker dependants and 15,000 skilled workers.

On the issue of minimum income for a spouse/partner visa, it states this is “uncertain” and “possibly low tens of thousands”.

The analysis suggests the overall impact on Scotland could be thousands fewer people involved in key sectors being able to live here.

Commenting, Thewliss said: “The proposals to change the visa salary thresholds put up yet another barrier for those who wish to contribute to Scotland.

READ MORE: 'Depressing' Labour agree with hike to overseas worker salary threshold

“The Tories are sending out a clear message that the UK is becoming an increasingly unwelcoming destination; this is damaging both to our reputation and to Scotland’s economy.

“It is essential to recognise the value and expertise that foreign workers bring to our workforce. They often possess specialised skills and knowledge that are in high demand, making them a valuable asset to our industries.”

She added: “A number of constituents have been in touch with me, distressed about the impact these proposals will have on their family life, and their ability to stay in a country they are proud to have made their home.

"For others, who have moved abroad and fallen in love, they worry about their ability to return with their spouse.

“There is no evidence that the UK Government has taken into account salary levels in Scotland – where these changes will have a disproportionate impact. In sectors like food, hospitality and tourism, which struggle already to recruit post-Brexit, vacancies will be left unfilled.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Care, which represents the independent social care sector, said it had raised concerns over the plans to prevent overseas care workers from bringing dependants to the UK.

But it said since then it had identified further problems, including “considerable” delays in processing sponsorship certificates for employers and in renewing the visa status of those already working in Scotland.

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said: “We have written directly to the Home Office to raise our concerns and await a response.

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“We are deeply concerned that these practices and the general approach to immigration will result in our failure to attract international workers at a time when the social care sector in Scotland is struggling to recruit nationally despite all efforts.

“Scottish Care has always called for the creation of a flexible and humane immigration system which meets the peculiar and unique needs of the Scottish population given our ageing demographic and workforce.

“Sadly, recent weeks have evidenced the exact opposite.”

READ MORE: Family visa earnings threshold will not be imposed in full until 2025 – Sunak

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) said: "This is a massive own goal by an increasingly desperate UK Government.

"By raising the threshold, ministers are sacrificing the ability of Scottish and UK universities to attract talent, particularly among the early career researchers who will become the pioneers of the future.

"Pay for many of our members in higher education is shamefully low - something university employers still refuse to address - and the Government's new policy will compound the harm that does.

"At their current salary levels, many postdoctoral positions will now be closed off to international talent. We are already hearing reports of people in established careers whose visas are coming up for renewal being told that, under these new rules, they won't be able to stay in their jobs. 

"Worse still, the near doubling of the threshold for family visas is a callous move that threatens to tear families apart."

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister and Home Secretary have made clear that current levels of migration to the UK are far too high. That is why the Government announced a plan to cut the number of migrants coming to the UK by 300,000 a year – the largest reduction ever.

“Our approach strikes the right balance between reducing net migration and ensuring businesses recruit from the domestic workforce while ensuring our NHS, care and education sectors continue to have access to the workers they need.

“The Global Talent Visa, High Potential Individual Visa, and the Innovator Founder Visa routes remain unchanged and will continue to welcome talented individuals in Stem to help boost our domestic sector.”