ONE of Scotland’s staunchest Brexiteers has blasted Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit immigration plans, and said he could now support the Scottish Government’s proposal for a separate Scottish visa.

Speaking to The National, Jimmy Buchan, the CEO of the Scottish Seafood Association, said the the Prime Minister’s move to a point-based immigration system would be catastrophic for the industry.

The key concern for the former skipper is the salary threshold which will prevent any workers coming to the UK from overseas, unless they’re guaranteed a job that pays at least £26,500.

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He warned that the Home Office needed to be more pragmatic and listen to the lobbying from the whole food chain, or else they could find themselves in a difficult place politically.

“If they don’t take heed to that then I think the alternative is we’ve got to go back to the Scottish Government and go ‘right what is your counter proposal because we will support it’,” he said, adding: “We’ve got to make sure that business can continue to operate, simple as. If the UK Government is not going to give Scotland what it needs, we will have no option but to look at a different system that does lend itself to that. And that’ll open a whole new political argument.”

The National: The Brexit flotilla went down the Thames in 2016The Brexit flotilla went down the Thames in 2016

Buchan, a former Tory candidate in Banff and Buchan, is known to many from his appearance on the hit BBC Scotland documentary Trawlermen.

He has in the past been a vociferous supporter of Brexit. In the run up to the 2016 EU referendum he even joined Nigel Farage on a Fishing4Leave organised flotilla in the Thames.

Following the referendum result Buchan said it was the realisation of a long-held dream. “When I saw the results come in I felt jubilation and a huge sense of relief,” he said. “We fishermen have been campaigning to get out of Europe for decades.”

Yesterday he warned that if processing firms suddenly had to start paying operatives £26,500 then it would increase the cost of production.

“That means the cost of the food goes up which will create inflation. The very thing that the Government is trying to control.”

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He added: “It’s not that we’re against those wages, but in a global market that’s where we’re at. The alternative is to relocate business to other economic power zones that does lend itself to that.”

Speaking earlier on Radio 4, he said the industry in the North East of Scotland was 70% dependent on migrant workers.

Asked if the industry would be able to attract local people into these jobs, he replied: “This is a story where we’ve become a victim of our own success. We’ve raised the bar of how we want our own people to live their lives. We’ve created education routes. We’ve encouraged people to seek different careers. We’re in a very low employment area with oil and gas and light industry.

“So getting local people to do the task of the fish filleting and the skills that are needed here we’ve just found it very very challenging and that void has been filled by the freedom of movement of people across Europe who’ve been willing to come here and fill these posts.”

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Asked about automation as a solution to any recruitment crisis, Buchan replied: “I’ll tell you something there’s no one can beat the skill of a human with a knife whether it’s filleting fish or whether it’s a shucking knife and shucking scallops or cutting monktails. These are all tasks that to date can’t be done by a machine.”

He added: “If we cannot get the people into the factories then any sea of opportunity that Brexit can provide is going to be economically lost. I think the fish will still be caught, the fish will still be bought and sold but the economic benefit to Scotland is going to be catastrophic because we will not be able to compete in a global market if we cannot get the workers in the factories.”

The National:

Stewart Stevenson, the MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast (above), described the veteran skipper’s comments as a “major intervention”.

He added: “The SNP has repeatedly warned that Brexit caused an enormous risk to fish processing. The Tory plan to limit the number of workers available, while also leaving us outside the single market, is a worst case scenario. Any notion that the Tories care about Scottish fishing – whether catching, processing or exports – has been well and truly sunk.

“The Tories sold out Scottish fishing on the way into Europe – and they’ve wasted no time in doing so again on the way out.”