Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael says he stands behind fishing industry concerns over new visa restrictions. Photo: Seafish
Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has voiced his support for concerns raised by figures in the fishing industry regarding the potential risks of food price inflation and the future success of fishing due to new visa restrictions.
The warnings come as the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa is set to rise from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum on April 4, coupled with the end of the 20% going rate salary discount for “shortage occupations.”
Ann Bell, Aberdeenshire councillor and chairwoman of the North East Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership (NESFDP), cautioned that the Scottish fishing industry is at risk of being “mortally wounded” by these changes, and consumers could face double-digit inflation in the price of fish and other seafood. Former trawlerman Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association (SSA), supported these concerns.
Alistair Carmichael emphasised the familiarity of these concerns to fishing communities across the country, criticising the Home Office for making visa policy decisions without understanding the needs of island and coastal communities. Carmichael warned that the government’s decisions risk crippling the fishing industry for decades and urged for a more balanced approach.
The fishing industry in Scotland is currently facing acute shortages of labor, both on fishing vessels and in processing plants. The increased minimum salary threshold for skilled worker visas is expected to impact the catching and processing sectors, affecting large parts of the fleet and processing businesses reliant on non-UK workers to address labour shortages.
Concerns have been raised about potential price hikes, with estimates suggesting that prices paid by processors/wholesalers to vessel operators may need to rise by 33% for the under 12m prawn fleet. The UK Government’s changes to skilled worker visas are seen as potentially reducing the capacity and profitability of UK fish processors, diverting fishing vessels to foreign ports.
Ann Bell’s letter, representing the NESFDP, highlights the potential mortal wounds to the seafood sector due to these policy changes and calls for derogations on a sector-by-sector basis. The industry, heavily focused on exports, must remain globally competitive to survive, especially with 80% of fish landed in the UK being exported.
Alistair Carmichael concludes that the UK government, having trashed both the immigration system and the economy in recent years, cannot be trusted to fix either.
Source: Press Release