Commenting on the announcement of Conservative immigration policy, Liberal Democrat candidate for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael has criticised the Conservative Party for ignoring calls in the last Parliament to reform the visa system for non-EEA crew of Scottish fishing vessels.
Non-EEA crew members make up approximately 20% of those employed on fishing vessels in the UK, but their designation as "unskilled workers" makes obtaining visas difficult, with knock-on effects for the capacity of the industry.
Mr. Carmichael said:
"Over the last few years I have led the campaign in Parliament to allow the Scottish fishing fleet access to the crews that they need and cannot recruit even inside the EU. This was an issue which commanded cross-party support and should have been an easy decision for the Government. Instead they stonewalled and prevaricated while in some ports boats were unable to go to sea.”
"It is not as though there is no clear solution for the problem we face. Recognising fishing crew as the skilled and specialised workers that they are would allow far greater flexibility for our industries to adapt to changeable conditions. In fact the visa system for fishing crew has been far more open in the past, with far greater benefits for the entire fishing industry. This is the definition of a special case that requires special attention, and yet the Government has continued to drag its feet.
"The Conservatives have never been slow to use the fishing industry as a political prop whenever it suited them. It is about time they showed some genuine commitment to it.”