15 April 2013

Scottish MP writes to UK immigration minister over cruise rules

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Scotland's Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing has said he is writing to UK Immigration Mark Harper to complain about legislation changes which reportedly discourage cruise liners from calling at British ports.

UK visa

Scottish Minister Ewing has written to UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper over UK visa checks for cruise ship passengers.

Earlier this year the UK Border Force said a new interpretation of existing UK immigration policy meant that cruise liner passengers must have their UK visa and passports checked at the first port of call within the UK; previously visas and other credentials were checked in advance using ships' manifests.

Given some of the larger cruise liners can carry over a thousand passengers, Minister Ewing says this can result in lengthy delays which can ultimately lead to cruises not stopping in the UK at all.

"This is very damaging; it reduces the length of the time available on-shore and makes cruise companies less inclined to call at UK ports," wrote the minister. "Both are highly detrimental to local economies.

Passengers on cruise ships stopping in Scotland reportedly generated over £40 million for the country's economy last year. Minister Ewing said not only are the checks wasting time and money, they are needless.

"We believe it is also functionally redundant as these checks duplicate the rigorous controls performed at the port of embarkation when passengers initially check-in for cruise embarkation."

Minister Ewing's complaints were supported by fellow Scottish MP Stuart McMillan, who had also written to the Westminster Government in December last year to protest the changes:

"The cruise ship sector is increasingly important to Scotland's economy, with passenger numbers growing rapidly as more and more people visit our shores via cruise ship," said Mr McMillan. "I am delighted that Fergus Ewing has made contact with the UK Government - they can no longer stay silent on this issue which has a profound impact on Scotland's economy.

"We should be doing everything we can to boost and support the tourism sector, not putting ill-considered obstacles in its path as Westminster seems determined to do. It is completely unacceptable for Westminster to simply ignore the repeated warnings that the cruise industry has given them. These latest calls must act as a wakeup call to Westminster that can no longer simply be brushed aside."

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