Skilled Worker Visa must change to prevent fishing crew shortages says Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon
Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon has said that rules regarding the Skilled Worker Visa scheme must change to accompany the changes being introduced by the UK government with regards to the transit visa scheme so that fishing vessels are not left high-and-dry without essential migrant crew.
The Minister was answering a question from Scottish National Party MSP for Na h-Eileann an Iar, Alasdair Allan who had set the written question:
“To ask the Scottish Government what representations it can make to the UK Government regarding any reduction in access to skilled crew fishing vessels in the Western Isles from 1 November 2022 as a result of the UK Government’s reported plan to strictly implement existing transit visa regulations with regards to non-EU fishers, such as those from Ghana and the Philippines, working on UK fishing vessels in Scottish waters, and what recent discussions it has had with the UK Government regarding (a) how to increase the number of EU fishers accessing work permits and (b) amending the requirements of the sponsored employers scheme to better accommodate the needs of sectors such as fishing, in light of reports of a clear and persistent labour shortage in Scotland.”
The Home Office has plans which would stop immigrant workers employed using transit visas, from working onboard UK-registered fishing vessels in UK territorial waters, a move that would be detrimental to the Scottish demersal fishing fleet who are reliant on crew from outside the UK.
In her response, the Minister said:
“The Scottish Government is aware of Home Office plans to issue amended immigration rules to prohibit all forms of activity within UK territorial waters or onshore by crew employed using transit visas. Following representations from the Scottish Government and others – including a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture to the Home Secretary on 20 September – the introduction of these new rules has been postponed to spring 2023, rather than 1 November as originally planned.
“Whilst that delay is welcome, the Scottish Government is clear that changes to the transit visa rules must accompanied in parallel by changes to Skilled Worker Visa provision to ensure that the latter is genuinely proportionate and accessible to all parts of the fleet, since the alternative may be an exacerbation of current labour shortages and vessel tie-ups. We are similarly clear that the Home Office must ensure that meaningful consultation and robust impact assessments are undertaken before any changes to immigration rules affecting the Scottish fishing industry are made.
“In addition to continuing to submit evidence on Scotland’s unique economic and demographic needs to the Migration Advisory Committee, the Scottish Government has offered to meet the Home Office and the other Devolved Governments to identify and implement alternative arrangements that promote proportionate border security whilst also protecting the rights of non-UK workers and the ability of industry to access the labour it needs. To date that offer has not been accepted.”
by Oliver McBride