Recently, I wrote to the Home Office in June to ask the UK government what impact leaving the EU would have on cruise ship passengers from countries in the European Union visiting Inverclyde and disembarking – including any changes to passport arrangements and visa requirements.
A record 500,000 cruise passengers have arrived in Scotland in 2016, with 59 cruise ships and 101,550 passengers calling at Greenock’s Ocean Terminal port alone. Overall, tourism represents around 5% of Scottish GDP with over 14.6million visitors to Scotland in 2015 contributing around £6 billion to GDP.
Despite the importance of tourism to the Scottish and UK economy, Tory Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill MP was unable to give any reassurances in his response this week to my letter – stating only that “there will be no immediate changes in the circumstances of European citizens travelling to, or residing in, the UK” because “At present, the UK remains in the EU.”
Currently UK citizens and those from other EU countries have the right to enter and live in other Member States, but senior UK government ministers and Labour opposition spokespeople are pushing for Freedom of Movement to be scrapped or curbed as part of Brexit negotiations – potentially impacting both on EU holidaymakers visiting Scotland and those UK citizens visiting EU countries.
The UK government is putting Scotland’s vital tourism industry at risk by failing to set out how they will protect our relationship with Europe.
Tourism is worth billions of pounds to Scotland’s economy and it is hugely important to local communities like Inverclyde that depend on the jobs and investment it brings.
It makes no sense at all for the UK government to put up barriers to Scottish tourism by EU citizens – but with senior Tory ministers and opposition Labour spokespeople pushing for Freedom of Movement to be scrapped that is exactly what could happen despite the damage it would do.
And while the UK government continue to remain silent on their plan for leaving the EU they are adding to the uncertainty facing the country – it was reckless for them to go into the EU referendum with no plan but it is unbelievable that months on we still have no answers to the big questions facing the country.
The only thing that is clear is that the SNP is the only party that can be trusted to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe and stand up for Scotland’s interests at Westminster.