JUST when you thought that the Conservatives had scraped the bottom of the barrel of needless cruelty, they go and prove that they are not only capable of scraping through the bottom of the barrel, they are hell bent on tunnelling down through the earth underneath until they reach the Hades at the core of the planet.

Earlier this week Home Secretary James Cleverly announced new plans ostensibly aimed at cutting immigration figures, but with the true purpose of shoring up Rishi Sunak's political defences against attacks from the extreme right Neanderthal wing of his own party and the frothing right-wing media.

Under the plans unveiled on Monday, those wishing to bring their spouse to the UK will now have to earn £38,700 annually - almost double the current figure of £18,600.

The new price on love imposed by the Tories is significantly higher than the average UK annual salary of £35,464.

Although the change is not retrospective, the government has confirmed that the new higher figure will apply to those already living here who seek to renew their visas.

My husband is an American citizen and we have personal experience of the Byzantine, ruinously expensive, invasive, and soul destroying process of applying for a spouse visa from the UK Home Office.

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Thanks to changes introduced by Theresa 'Hostile Environment' May, the foreign spouses of UK citizens must apply for a renewal of their spouse visa at least once before becoming eligible to apply for permanent leave to remain in the UK.

A spouse visa lasts for two and a half years, but a foreign spouse must have lived in the UK for five years before they can apply for permanent leave to remain.

On initially applying for the visa, and when renewing it, the applicant must pay visa and lawyer fees which can reach £2500 or more, (you don't need an immigration lawyer to make the application, but given the complexity of the rules it's strongly advised.) Additionally, an NHS supplement of more than £1500 must be paid, £624 per year, working out at £1560 for a visa lasting two and a half years.

This NHS supplement must be paid both upon initially applying for the visa, and when renewing it. When my husband renewed his visa last year, he had to pay the NHS supplement of £1560 a second time, even though he has been resident in the UK since late 2019, and has been employed and has paid UK taxes and National Insurance the entire time.

Each time we applied for the visa or for its renewal, we had to prove our household income and supply additional evidence to prove that we are actually in a genuine relationship and are living together.

The National: The Home Secretary James Cleverly unveiled the new rules earlier this weekThe Home Secretary James Cleverly unveiled the new rules earlier this week

When the visa is granted, it comes on the condition that the visa holder has no recourse to public funds, so no foreign spouse of a UK citizen is eligible to claim or receive any benefits irrespective of any changes to their household's circumstances.

This has been the case for many years.

The new increase in the required income level is categorically not about ensuring that "if you are bringing someone into the country you are able to support them," as a spokeshypocrite for Downing Street claimed.

The existing rules already did that.

These changes are about removing the right of thousands of British citizens to bring their foreign spouses to the UK. The changes mean that only those who have an income significantly greater than the average wage will be able to bring their foreign spouses to the UK.

From now on, thanks to the Tories, marrying a foreigner becomes a privilege restricted to the better off. Don't fall in love with a foreigner unless you earn significantly more than the average wage.

However, the cruellest part of these changes is that they will apply to those renewing their visas.

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Having made the initial application and being granted a visa on the basis of an annual income of £18,600, people who may have been residing in the UK for as long as five years will now find that their income is nowhere near sufficient for their visa to be renewed.

This could see families long established in the UK being torn apart.

This is a piece of Tory nastiness which is totally out of line with spousal visa requirements in other nations and which could have devastating consequences for families.

The irony is that these changes will not even affect the headline immigration figure that Sunak so obsesses over, as they will apply to foreign spouses who have already been residing legally in the UK for several years.

Naturally we can expect Keir Starmer's Tory chasing right wing Labour party to protest vigorously against these egregiously cruel new rules and promise to reverse them the moment they gain power... Oh, right.

Attacking The National won’t get rid of Keir Starmer’s love of Maggie Thatcher

Anas Sarwar has finally been called on to make a statement about comments made in praise of Margaret Thatcher by Thatcher fanboy Keir Starmer in a recent article for The Telegraph.

Sarwar condemned Thatcher and her devastating effects on Scottish communities but notably refused to criticise his party leader.

Instead, he chose to attack SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn who was all of three years old when Thatcher was forced out of office in 1991.

Sarwar demanded to know where Stephen Flynn was when Alex Salmond made his much criticised comment about Margaret Thatcher in 2008 when he said that Scotland didn't have a problem with Thatcher's economic policies but had a big problem with her social policies.

The National: Scottish Labour leader Anas SarwarScottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

This was seven years before Stephen Flynn entered politics. He was first elected as a councillor in 2015.

The SNP Westminster leader noted that he had also been told to 'reflect upon 1979', which was nine years before he was born.

Sarwar also attacked this newspaper, again bring up Salmond's remarks. The National was first published in 2015.

When you are attacked for thing that happened even before you existed, as Stephen Flynn pointed out: "I think if that's the basis of their political argument, then they know that they've lost."

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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