Earlier this week, the UK Government announced that several fishing industry roles were to be added to the UK’s occupation shortage list. The Scottish fishing sector has been hugely struggling to employ enough deckhands and fishing related staff since the UK left the European Union. The combination of labour shortages, red-tape with the EU and convoluted visa processes has left the sector on its knees, and many fishermen have been forced to close their business over the past few years as this once thriving industry has become more and more difficult to make a living from.
I have lost count of the number of times I have spoken about, or met with UK ministers to discuss the problems facing our inshore fishing fleet when it comes to employing foreign professional seafarers.
The latest Home Office guidelines mean that anyone coming to work inside the 12 mile limit will be refused a Skilled Worker visa to work as a deckhand unless they have passed a rigorous English language exam, one which requires them to speak, read, write and understand English to a very, very high standard.
The whole of the inshore fishing industry agrees that the standard set by the Home Office is completely unnecessary and is prohibitively high, meaning that the chronic shortage of labour will continue, and boats will be unable to go to sea.
No one is arguing that a basic requirement to understand and speak English is not a good thing, but the current B1 level test is a huge barrier to skippers and owners recruiting professional seafarers to come and work on their boats.
I, along with other members representing large fishing communities, raised this issue yesterday. Hopefully, this time, the Home Office will listen and act before it is too late.
You can view my full contribution below.