Publication - Research and analysis

An Assessment of the Conditions Affecting Entry into the Scottish Fishing Industry and Potential Policy Responses

Published: 19 Sep 2014
Part of:
Marine and fisheries

New entry into the Scottish fishing industry is commonly perceived as a self-evident necessity for the long-term prosperity of the sector and its absence a signal for government intervention. The remit of this paper is to explore whether prohibitive condi

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37 page PDF

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An Assessment of the Conditions Affecting Entry into the Scottish Fishing Industry and Potential Policy Responses
5. Identifying Regional and Sectoral Differences

37 page PDF

1.2 MB

5. Identifying Regional and Sectoral Differences

5.1 Labour Supply: Is reliance on a migrant labour force a problem or a fact?

There is a strong perception that the Scottish fishing industry is becoming increasingly reliant on a migrant labour force. While this was supported in the industry engagements, it appears to be a very distinct perspective of the POs and associations located in the North-East of Scotland and within the primary ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh. It is important to note that this narrative is not representative of the industry across Scotland. Industry representatives on the West Coast and the island communities including the Shetlands report relatively high levels of enthusiasm amongst young, indigenous workers towards the industry. This divergence is likely to be caused by the relative opportunities offered to thevarious local workforces. On the East Coast, the fishing industry faces strong competition from other sectors such as oil and gas, which offer better opportunities in terms of wage and working patterns.

On the East Coast in particular, the growing migrant workforce appears to act as a mechanism that provides the industry with an adequate supply of labour which the domestic market can no longer provide. As well as a lack of demand amongst young, Scottish workers to enter the fishing industry, some employers prefer and benefit from a migrant workforce due to their generally lower expectations about wages and employment conditions. Employers in some sectors such as agriculture openly acknowledge that the wages and employment conditions they offer for low-skilled work are considered unacceptable to most British workers (Aldin et al., 2010).

Table 5. Top 10 Sectors in the UK of Foreign-born Workers, 2012


Migrant workforce as % of total sector workforce

Manufacture of wearing apparel


Manufacture of food products


Domestic personnel


Marine Fishing


Food and beverage service activities




Warehousing & support for transport


Security & investigation activities


Computer programming and consultancy


Air transport


Residential care activities


Source: Labour Force Survey 2012

As well as the beneficial impacts and auxiliary nature of a growing migrant labour supply for the Scottish fishing industry, analysis of the wider UK workforce suggests that this increased dependence is not wholly driven by endogenous factors that emanate from within the industry. Instead, this shift appears to be representative of wider changes taking place within the UK labour market. In the UK, the number of foreign-born workers as a share of UK employment increased from 7.2% in 1993 to 13.6% in 2012. However, the impact of this across different occupations and sectors has not been uniform as migrant workers have tended to work in concentrated numbers in a few industries. As indicated by Table 5, there are a number of industries that have a growing reliance upon a migrant labour force. Two key examples are the construction and social care sector. Due to the absence of a comprehensive vocational education and training system and low levels of labour market regulation, the construction sector experiences difficulty in finding suitably skilled British workers (Chan, Clarke and Dainty, 2010). In a similar vein, public policies and the low wages and poor working conditions of social-care workers and care assistants has created an increasing demand on migrant workers for this sector (Moriarty 2010; Cangiano et al. 2009). However, while a growing migrant labour force may be part of wider changes taking place at an aggregate level - as domestic workers take up better opportunities in other sectors - political discomfort may arise given the aspiration for an industry structure based upon family-ownership. In essence, if there are fewer young Scottish workers entering the industry as crewmen, this will limit the number of Scottish workers aspiring and becoming Scottish skippers. As mentioned, this appears to be a situation predominantly affecting the industry in the north-east. The basic point is that research suggests that the reason why some sectors have a disproportionate need for migrant labour is due to a lack of interest and skills from within the domestic labour market. Therefore, while the Government can assist those domestic workers who still wish to enter the industry through training schemes and ownership grants, unless the conditions surrounding the work and pay are improved, demand for this service will continue to fall. The most practical remedy to this is therefore to increase the attractiveness of the industry to domestic workers by improving the economic performance and competitiveness of the industry.

5.2 Facilitating New Ownership

From reviewing the industry and community-led new entrant's schemes in place, there appears to be a number of routes and programmes that facilitate new ownership into the industry. However, these are overwhelmingly located on the West Coast (Outer Hebrides, Barra, Islay) and in Shetland, with ownership schemes promoted by processors again concentrated on the west coast and focused upon the inshore and shellfish sectors. There is an evident gap on similar opportunities on the North-East, which one PO reported was due to a lack of demand for such services as there are reportedly no young people in this region who wish to enter the industry for reasons mentioned above. While the establishment of new ownership does not seem to be an issue on the west coast and in the islands and for the inshore and shellfish sectors, it is evident that different conditions operate in the North-East and specifically for the demersal vessels in this area. However, as commented by two POs it is likely that outright ownership cannot be facilitated amongst new young workers in this sector. Instead, they believe that the best case scenario is for young Scottish workers to be enticed into entering the industry as crew, and then to work their way up to become skippers, without actually owning the vessel or quota. Put forward by representatives in this area was for training and recruitment to become more dynamic and again for the competitiveness of the industry to improve.

While in the industry interviews the concept of quota redistribution found no support, it was proposed by a representative of a fishing association on the west coast that a potential policy was for new licences to be created and managed so as to encourage new entry. As the government has the ability to increase the number of licences, every year a few could be granted to new young fishers and once the operator has established themselves and was able to purchase and source their own, the licence would be rescinded and ring fenced to be used again. The issue is that all vessels within this sector do not support such as policy, as some existing operators are not happy to give new starts a 'hand-out' in this manner.

Table 6: Overview of the Key Programmes Facilitating New Entry


Type of Entry

Areas covered

Sectors covered

Community Quota Holdings


West Coast, Shetlands

Demersal, prawn trawlers

Community Quota Holdings




Processor Schemes: MacDuffs, Atlantic


West Coast (Outer Hebrides, Islay and Barra)

Shellfish, Inshore

Community-Local Bank Finance Schemes


West Coast

Inshore, shellfish and demersal

Modern Marine Apprenticeship (MMA)


Areas with good college framework (East coast and centre)


Scottish Government funding of FITA 3-week course


West Coast- areas without good college framework


Princes Trust, EFF Axis 1 grants



All- highest impact on small-scale and inshore

EFF Axis 1 First Time Vessel Owner/Shareholder Funding

Recruitment/ Ownership