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WESTERN Isles MP Angus B MacNeil has voiced disappointed with the response he has received from the Minister of State for Immigration, Brandon Lewis, about the crew shortage crisis in the West Coast fishing industry.
In March, Mr MacNeil hit out at the Home Office for failing to consider reintroducing a scheme which would allow non-European people to work in the industry and in July he wrote to Mr Lewis calling for him to visit the West Coast of Scotland to meet representatives of the fishing industry as they struggle with a shortage of crew.
Mr MacNeil said: ‘I invited Mr Lewis to meet with representatives of the West Coast of Scotland fishing industry so as he could see the damage the UK government’s rules on migrant workers is having on fishing communities.
‘The response from the minister shows a clear lack of understanding about the crisis in the West Coast of Scotland fishing industry.
‘The minister has informed me that in April his officials met the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association and the Anglo-Northern Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, who were invited to work up some further proposals as to what sort of arrangements might assist in meeting its needs while not undermining the government’s policy of restricting the use of non-EEA labour to fill “less skilled” vacancies in the UK.
‘Anyone who is, or has been, fishing would never describe this work as “less skilled”.
‘The minister has indicated to me that he thinks it would be best to see what emerges from these proposals before committing to my suggestion of a visit to the West Coast. Many fear that this is a case of “kicking it into the long grass”.
‘I sincerely hope that this is not the case and I will be writing again to the minister and reminding him of the damage being inflicted on the West Coast fishing industry.’