City's Poles say 'no' to more migrants
By Val Sweeney
The Inverness Courier (U.K.), May 4, 2010
A Polish community leader has branded comments made by Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg that Inverness needs more overseas workers as 'irresponsible'.
With the election battle intensifying ahead of polling day on Thursday, Inverness Polish Association chairman Zosia Wierzbowicz-Fraser stepped into the row over remarks made by Mr Clegg during an interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC TV earlier in the campaign.
Outlining his party's immigration policy based on a regional points system, Mr Clegg cited Inverness as one of the areas needing migrant workers. He claimed there was 'a very clear consensus among everybody that they need people to come into that part of the country in order to work'.
His comments were supported by his chief-of-staff Danny Alexander who is defending the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey seat.
But Mrs Wierzbowicz-Fraser yesterday criticised the remarks. 'I feel at this time, in the context of Inverness, it was an irresponsible statement,' she said, stressing her association was non-political.
She estimates there are about 4500 to 5000 Poles in Inverness and Ross-shire and when asked whether more migrants should be encouraged to settle in the area she replied: 'Absolutely not. There is not enough work to go around.
'The kind of work which is offered is temporary short-term work and there is also difficulty in obtaining accommodation. There is basically very little council accommodation available.'
She added there were 'tremendous numbers' of Polish graduates working as cleaners, waiters and waitresses and kitchen porters.
Conservative candidate Jim Ferguson, who has spoken to Mrs Wierzbowicz-Fraser, holds Mr Alexander responsible for Mr Clegg's comments. He maintained Mr Alexander was out of touch with the feelings of the local migrant population, many of whom were losing their jobs and having difficulties in finding and paying for accommodation.
'What on earth is Mr Alexander doing telling his party leader and writing the party manifesto and saying Inverness wants and needs more migrants?' Mr Ferguson queried.
He said there were just over 10,000 people on the housing waiting list and he did not want people blaming migrants for a lack of jobs, housing or health care.
'I have been saying we need a common sense and properly-managed migration policy not only for those outwith the EU but also for those in the EU,' Mr Ferguson added.
But Mr Alexander last night accused the Conservatives of scaremongering and said the Lib-Dem view on immigration was that it should be based on differing economic needs in different parts of the country.
'I think the Conservative party is highly irresponsible and completely misleading,' he declared.
'What we want to do – which the Conservatives have never recognised – is understand that different parts of the county have different needs.
'I know there are posts unfilled in the National Health Service, for example. Our policy might well mean that we would ensure particular needs in the Highlands were met.
'In other areas we would equally be able to say we would not need additional migrant workers.'
* Former Lib-Dem Leader Charles Kennedy, who is seeking re-election in Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and ex-Inverness Provost Alan Sellar joined Mr Alexander aboard a vintage MacBrayne's bus at the weekend for a tour of both constituencies.