SNP manifesto calls for new deal with EU

John Swinney launches the SNP's 2024 manifesto (photo: SNP)

The Scottish National Party is calling in its manifesto for a renegotiation of the UK’s trade deal with Europe and a “bespoke” work visa scheme to help employers in Scotland recruit from overseas.

As widely flagged in advance, the party’s manifesto places its call for Scottish independence on the first page, and says that the Scottish government would start talks on independence if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats.

The manifesto also, however, sets out a series of demands for whichever government is in power in Westminster after the election, and some of these align with policies the seafood sector in Scotland has called for.

The SNP want to see devolved powers to create “…a bespoke migration system for Scotland that values those who decide to work, live, study and invest here and allows us to address our specific demographic and economic needs.”

In contrast with the south of England, many areas of Scotland are seeing falls in population and the ability to hire workers from overseas would help employers in fields such as seafood processing to fill gaps that have worsened after Brexit.

The SNP’s proposed package would include a rural visa pilot scheme. The manifesto says: “Scotland should have full powers over immigration, including the devolution of overseas workers’ employment visas. Until then, it is vital the UK Government acknowledges the distinct demographic challenges we face in Scotland and introduce a pilot to mitigate against labour shortages as a result of a hard Brexit and hostile immigration policies.”

In common with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP also want to see a new veterinary agreement with the European Union, to ease cross border trade in products of animal origin. This is also something high on the wish list for the seafood sector.

The manifesto also calls for Scotland to be given its “rightful share” of marine funding, post-Brexit. As it points out, Scotland has 63% of UK fishing waters and over 90% of aquaculture production but, it argues, since Brexit, Westminster has shortchanged funding for innovation and investment – allocating only £14m directly, instead of the £62m we were entitled to.

The manifesto says: “The UK Government must give Scotland our rightful share of marine funding – and provide certainty through multi-annual funding frameworks.”

It does not, however, include in its calculation that Scottish businesses and institutions are also eligible for UK-wide funding through, for example, the £100m UK Seafood Fund or the Seafood Innovation Fund.

The manifesto also says: “The Tories’ post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU has created a £281m shortfall in quota value and threatens a key export market for Scottish salmon after 2026. Only with independence will we get the change Scotland’s seafood sector really needs.

“Until then, to protect our interests, we will press for real and meaningful engagement for Scotland through the upcoming review of the trade agreement and continue to call for our fair share of quota through a shift to zonal attachment.”

SNP Manifesto 2024

Reform vows to tighten immigration curbs

Meanwhile earlier this week the Reform Party, successor to the Brexit Party, also published its manifesto, labelled a “contract with the British people”.

Reform also wants to see the trade agreement with the EU renegotiation, but the clear implication is that Reform wants to see less alignment between the UK and EU, not more.

The Reform manifesto has a lot to say about catch fishing – calling for more protection for UK fishers and incentives to land catches for processing at UK ports – but does not consider aquaculture.

On immigration, probably Reform’s flagship policy area, the manifesto advocates a freeze on “non-essential” immigration (without defining what that is) and an Employer Immigration Tax which would mean foreign nationals would be liable for employers’ national insurance at 20% (instead of the current 13.8%).

“Essential foreign health and care workers” would not be liable for the extra tax, and nor would small businesses employing five or fewer people.

The UK General Election takes place on 4 July.

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