UK Government Rejects New Visa to Support Our Inshore Fishermen

No to New Visa to Support Our Inshore Fishermen

In April, I wrote to the Home Secretary to ask him to consider introducing a new Seafarer’s Visa which would allow inshore fishermen from outside the EEA to work in UK territorial waters. This is of huge significance to the boats in Troon and the west coast, as our inshore fishing industry relies on individuals from further afield, often Thailand and the Philippines, to man their boats.

Dr Whitford's letter to the Home Office requesting the introduction of a new Seafarers Visa

The West of Scotland is penalised because the chains of islands extend the territorial limit well beyond the 12 miles from the mainland. As the rich fishing grounds for lobster and langoustine are in these shallow waters, the skippers are simply unable to safely man their boats and many are lying idle.

Whilst, ideally, these boats would be able to source their crew locally, this is not currently possible as there are insufficient people with the required skill set. Yet, despite fishing requiring both skill and experience, these skills are not valued by current or proposed immigration rules.

Currently, it is a double-edged sword as it is difficult to attract young people into the industry if they see boats tied up which should be out at sea. Similarly, experienced fishermen are critical to training future fishing crew and ensuring the sustainability of our inshore fleet and the premium seafood, for which Scotland is renowned.

The response I received was extremely disappointing, if not surprising, with Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, showing clearly that the UK Government is not remotely interested in the fact that there are boats tied up the length of the West Coast for lack of crew.

This is why control over immigration need to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Due to our demographics, Scotland needs people to come here to work to help sustain our fishing, agriculture and tourism sectors as well as our public services, but the UK Government is unwilling to allow any flexibility or exemptions to suit our particular needs.