Scots Curry Industry Faces Crisis Over Immigration Laws
CURRY restaurant owners staged a protest at Holyrood today over changes to immigration rules they claim could kill off the curry restaurant in the UK.
They claim food quality will deteriorate and warned up to half of the Indian restaurants currently in business could shut because of the new legislation which makes it harder for them to bring in staff from outside the European Union.
And they say that has created a shortage of kitchen staff in their eateries.
Foysol Choudhury, general secretary of the Bangladesh Samity Association in Edinburgh, criticised new rules requiring immigrants to speak English and have an academic qualification.
"Our chefs don't need to speak English. Their curry talks," he said.
"Whoever comes into my restaurant for a job will have to start as a kitchen porter and then he will have to climb the ladder.
"A kitchen porter gets a minimum wage. Somebody with academic qualifications is not going to accept that.
"The Indian restaurant industry contributes Â£3.2 billion to the British economy. What is the British government doing to save this industry?"
Asked about the consequences if action is not taken to tackle the issue, he said bluntly: "Half of the restaurants will close and we'll lose the food quality.
"Eventually this industry will die."
Edinburgh entrepreneur Tommy Miah, who is involved in the International Indian Chef of the Year Competition, added: "We're going to suffer big time. You guys won't be able to have chicken tikka masala anymore.
"I've been offered a couple of other restaurants to take but I've said I can't do it because I'm struggling with one restaurant."
Immigration laws are reserved to Westminster, but today's protest was about urging MSPs to lobby politicians in London on the issue.
First Minister Alex Salmond, a well-known curry fan, said the issue was "really serious".
Speaking as he met demonstrators, he said he would continue to draw the UK Government's attention to the matter.
He said: "If people can't get the skilled staff then they can't operate their restaurants, and if they can't operate their restaurants then that's damaging for the economy and the social life of Scotland. It's something we feel very strongly about.
"Ideally, the new system shouldn't have discriminated and prevented people coming in with key skills.
"I hope there's sympathy for this. I can't believe the Government in London intended this to happen.
"It's a matter of trying to sort out this unintended consequence because there's a lot more folk than me would be extremely disappointed if the restaurant trade and the curry industry in Scotland went into a downturn as a result of an unthinking application of new rules from London."
Bashir Ahmad - Scotland's first Asian MSP added: "With more restaurants open now and new tougher immigration laws, for those outside the EU, we are looking at a real curry crisis."
Scots Curry Industry Faces Crisis Over Immigration Laws - The Daily Record