Fishing vessel owners in the northeast of Scotland will welcome the new rules on immigration
The fishing industry in the northeast off Scotland has received a major boost as new immigration rules have been promised which should make it easier to recruit skilled deckhands from abroad.
The Home Office has accepted a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee that deckhands on large vessels (>9m) with three or more years’ experience should be included in the list of occupations eligible for skilled workers visas.
Kevin Foster, UK Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, confirmed the new arrangements on Thursday.
The decision has been welcomed by Scottish White Fish Producers Association chief executive Mike Park.
The news was also welcomed by Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid, who has been working closely with industry leaders on the issue, who said it was “good news” for the white fish fleet.
The Scottish Conservative MP said:
“This is good news for the Scottish fishing industry – and particularly for the demersal or white fish fleet primarily based here in Banff and Buchan.
“I listened to the concerns about crewing problems and worked hard over the past few years to secure this agreement from the Home Office.
“This issue has been a real problem for the white fish fleet. I know that some boats locally have been unable to fish within 12 miles of the shore because of visa restrictions affecting their deckhands.
“This decision shows what can be achieved when there is close co-operation between the government and the industry.”
Mike Park, Chief Executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, said:
“This is something we have been campaigning about for over four years and the industry will find it very useful and supportive.
“We’re really grateful for the effort put in by David as the MP for Banff and Buchan over this and for the support of the government getting it through.
“It’s a big issue for boats operating out of Scotland’s western archipelago, some of whom face issues with being forced to operate outside the 12-mile limit. It’s a big deal for them and for getting crew ashore for rest.”
The change means that although deckhands are not being added to the UK’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL) – which specifies which jobs have insufficient resident workers – they will become eligible for Skilled Worker visas which should make recruitment from abroad easier.
To qualify, their sponsoring employer must be offering a salary of at least £25,600, in line with other non-shortage occupations. If the deckhand is a ‘new entrant’ (mainly those under age 26), a lower salary threshold of £20,480 will apply. In all cases, their pay must also be at least £10.10 per hour. The changes take effect from 6 April 2021.