CONCERNS over the impact of the UK Government’s “extremely complex” visa rules for offshore renewables workers have been raised directly with the Energy Security Secretary.

SNP MP Dave Doogan, the SNP’s energy security spokesperson at Westminster, said he had written to Claire Coutinho after reports in The National highlighted the potential negative impact of the UK Government’s visa system.

On Tuesday, this paper reported on comments from Maria Gravelle, an immigration specialist at international law firm Pinsent Masons, after she said that the end to the Offshore Wind Worker Concession (OWWC) – which was brought in by the UK Government in 2017 but ended in April 2023 – was set to cause problems for the sector.

READ MORE: Scotland's renewable future 'at risk' after 'monumental failure' from Westminster

Gravelle said: “The knock-on effects are significant and were predictable. Visas themselves can be extremely costly and the extra red tape and administrative burden on employers is impacting on project budgets, skewing tenders for new developments, and in some cases could even delay work scopes.”

She said that visa costs can run into thousands of pounds per person through the "extremely complex" process, adding: “Without an appropriate fix, the UK will become increasingly undesirable for skilled offshore workers and their employers.”

The time-limited OWWC previously allowed “the employment of foreign nationals who are joining vessels engaged in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind projects in UK territorial waters”.

Doogan said he had written to Energy Security Secretary Coutinho (below) to raise concerns that the UK visa system may be “frustrating access to key international workers”.

The National: Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho said her party will cut ‘red tape’ that limits the amount of solar businesses can install (Danny Lawson/PA)

He told The National: “The Tories’ dysfunctional approach to the just transition and their most recent U-turns on net zero commitments reveals they are paying lip service to the urgency required to transition our energy production to renewables to protect both household bills and our environment.

“Frustrating access to key international workers, who are small in number but central to our projects in terms of specialist skills, is just another example of their incompetence. Whilst the bulk of these roles will be filled with domestic capacity, there always remains an international element in key specialisms within projects of this nature.

“Accordingly I have written to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, to ask what discussions she plans to have with the Home Secretary regarding the UK reinstating the Offshore Wind Worker Concession to support increased development of offshore wind projects here in Scotland.”

According to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), the country currently has 2.1GW of offshore wind capacity, while the UK as a whole has 11.3GW.

SPICe also notes that the Scottish Government’s Offshore Wind Policy Statement (published in October 2020) set out an ambition to achieve 8-11GW of offshore wind in Scottish waters by 2030.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Skilled Worker route is designed to effectively fill skilled gaps in the labour market and there is no reason why companies sponsoring work offshore cannot use exactly the same system as companies sponsoring work onshore. 

“Our Points-Based System rightly prioritises the skills we already have in the UK, while attracting the talent our economy needs to grow. It is broader than the previous immigration system, with many more jobs now eligible, stretching across all key sectors of the British economy.”