EDINBURGH (Reuters) - An Australian family living in Scotland, who came to the country four years ago during a drive to attract people to live in rural areas, is now battling deportation under new British rules designed to control immigration.
The Brains were due to meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday to discuss the rules which one lawmaker of her Scottish National Party (SNP) described as a "blunt instrument".
Kathryn and Gregg Brain and their seven-year-old son Lachlan, who has learnt Scotland's ancient Gaelic language at school, arrived in 2011 as part of a plan backed by the British government to help prop up an ageing and shrinking population in the Highlands of northern Scotland.
But the scheme was closed and a change in the rules meant the family required a different visa to stay in the country - a requirement that has pitted the devolved Scottish nationalist government against the British government in London.
One of the key issues in the debate on Britain's membership of the European Union ahead of a June 23 vote is the arrival of immigrants seeking work, and their status as beneficiaries of Britain's welfare system.
Immigration is above targets set by the government, seen in data released on Thursday showing net migration to Britain rose to 333,000 last year. The number of new arrivals from Europe has driven much opposition to the bloc.
"The government apparently is trying to regulate immigration but what they are actually doing is alienating and deporting the very people with the talent and the skills that we need in Scotland," said SNP lawmaker Kate Forbes.
"These inflexible rules are a blunt instrument," she added.
Gregg Brain is a health and safety expert and Kathryn, who arrived on a student visa, has just completed a degree in Scottish history and has an offer of temporary work in a local distillery.
Home Office minister James Brokenshire said the family could submit a new visa application and he would later meet their local member of parliament who had raised their case on Thursday.
"He can be assured that the family does not face an imminent risk of immediate deportation," Brokenshire told lawmakers.
Reporting By Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Stephen Addison