The case for a concessionary visa scheme for non-EEA workers in the fishing industry was raised with the Immigration Minister by a cross-party group of MPs this week.
Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid was accompanied by colleagues from the Fisheries All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for talks with Caroline Nokes.
The Scottish Conservative MP said the discussions about some of the challenges facing the sector had been “constructive”.
At the moment there are around 4,000 personnel employed in the Scottish catching sector, with some 800 of these coming from non-EEA maritime nations such as the Philipines. Another 400 are from the EU.
The UK Government has indicated it is considering a seasonal workers scheme to allow people to enter the country to work for defined periods of time.
However, Mr Duguid voiced his concern that the SNP MP for the Western Isles, Angus MacNeil, launched an attack on the Home Office and UK Government immediately after the meeting.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Duguid said: “I was delighted to sit down with the Immigration Minister for cross-party talks with my fellow MPs on the Fisheries APPG.
“We had a constructive discussion about some of the challenges facing the sector in terms of access to labour.
“I have already raised the issue of non-EEA crew with the Minister at the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this year.
“We discussed that again today, and I am pleased to hear that the government is listening and considering a seasonal workers scheme to allow people from non-EEA countries to help the industry for defined periods of time.
“It is understood by the industry that assurances must be provided that migrant workers are not exploited and that all efforts should be made to encourage young local people to join the industry as it becomes more and more professional.
“It has been estimated that to develop the local workforce sufficiently to become entirely non-dependent on non-UK fishermen it could take 10 to 15 years - particularly as we have the opportunity to expand and grow our fleet as we leave the EU.
“It was disappointing, given the positive cross-party nature of talks, that the SNP representative chose to launch a political attack on the Home Office immediately afterwards.
“It appears that the Nationalists are more interested in fostering grievance with Westminster than working constructively with the government.
“I will continue to work with ministers and MPs from all parties to stand up for the interests of Scotland’s fishermen and make the case forcefully for change when required.”