THE island businesswoman whose fight to stay in Scotland was backed by more than 17000 people will today fly for South Africa after the Home Office refused to let her stay.

Lizanne Zietsman and husband John Malpas met and fell in love on Arran, and planned to spend their lives there.

Today they begin an indefinite separation after Zietsman, 37, lost her bid to remain in the UK.

Officials who rejected her bid to extend her visa said the pair could simply move to South Africa, where her family relocated after leaving Zimbabwe under Mugabe. Today she will return there alone while Malpas remains to run their business and earn the profits they’ll need to try again.

Zietsman can only reapply from outwith the UK and the couple believe it will by October at the earliest before she stands a chance of gaining permission to return.

More than 17,400 people signed an online petition urging Home Secretary Sajid Javid to reconsider the visa refusal, with Patrica Gibson, the couple’s MP, raising the case – first reported by The National – in the House of Commons.

The pair sought the visa – first granted on the grounds of their savings – under human rights rules designed to keep families together. That route was chosen because their cafe, now thriving, had not met earnings requirements in its first year. Malpas fears Zietsman’s departure at the start of the busy tourist season will make it harder to maintain its current success.

However, Zietsman says they will “keep fighting”.

She initially declined to speak on record due to fears this may harm her case, with Malpas being interviewed instead.

He linked the case to the “hostile environment” migration policy put in place while Theresa May was Home Secretary.

But last night Zietsman told this newspaper: “We have done everything we possibly could. It’s a difficult one today.

“We knew this was going to be a hard road, going to speak to the media, but we do feel very strongly about the fact that by speaking out, it makes more people aware of what’s happening, not just to myself but to others.

“Whoever else is out there, they are not alone.”

On the support from Arran and beyond, she commented: “That has given us the strength to keep pushing.

“We have the backing of a beautiful community and that has given us the courage to face it all. You can’t help but feel the warmth and feel the love.

“Our lives are here. Regardless of how it was put in the refusal letter, this is where we should be and we’ll keep on fighting.”

The separation comes days after the couple marked Malpas’ 38th birthday together.

The Home Office said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence provided.”

But Gibson, who was denied a face-to-face meeting with Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes on the case, said Zietsman’s treatment was an “embarrassment”.

She commented: “I’m embarrassed that somebody like Lizanne has paid us the compliment of coming to Scotland to live and work and contribute to my constituency, who is held in such high esteem and affection by her community, and she is being treated like this.”