In response to the recent changes to the UK's immigration policies, Alasdair Allan MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has raised profound concerns regarding the decision to increase the minimum income threshold for obtaining spousal visas.
Current family visa holders in the Western Isles have contacted Dr Allan distraught by the new rules following the announcement by the UK’s legal immigration minister, Tom Pursglove MP, that British citizens and those settled in the UK must be earning at least £38,700 to bring in foreign family members.
Dr Allan emphasizes that the increased income threshold poses a significant challenge for individuals in rural areas, particularly in the Western Isles, where salaries are often lower than the national average. The move has caused genuine distress among families already settled within the Western Isles.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “This move threatens to tear families apart. It not only flies in the face of the values of compassion and family unity but also poses wider threats to the demography, economy, and social fabric of the Western Isles. Simply put, the immigration-obsessed government in Westminster is intent on expelling the exact sort of people we need in Scotland, and destroying our communities in the process.”
Tessa Gehringer Monk contacted Dr Allan to raise her concerns about the new rule’s ramifications on her and her partner. She relocated to the Western Isles in 2018 with her island husband on a spousal visa.
Mrs Monk commented: “Often on the islands it's necessary to take up multiple part-time or seasonal positions to make ends meet, unlike most of the rest of the country. We work very hard and we will not be able to make £38,700 this year, especially with so little notice. I feel like my life has completely gone off track with this announcement."
“I love living in the Western Isles. I have a business here, I love the local community, I'm a Gaelic speaker, and my goal for the coming year is to work locally in the education sector. I want so badly to be able to stay here, but this measure may force me to move back to America.”
The Scottish Government has proposed a rural visa pilot scheme to develop a targeted migration solution for remote and rural areas of Scotland, in recognition of the challenges posed by UK immigration policy in rural areas.
A 2020 report by the Convention of the Highlands and Islands highlighted a looming demographic crisis in the Western Isles, projecting a 16% population contraction by 2043. Depopulation was identified by NHS Western Isles in October 2023 as the single biggest risk facing treatment and care services in the region.