Swinney rails against ‘absurd’ cruise ship immigration checks

Scottish finance minister John Swinney has lambasted the UK Border Agency for introducing “absurd and unnecessary” immigration checks which could hamstring Shetland’s ability to attract cruise ships.

The change, brought in at the tail end of the 2012 season, will require cruise ship passengers to undergo a full immigration check when arriving from overseas.

With cruise operators having to shoulder the cost of flying border agency officials north to carry out the checks, there are fears it could result in a decline in the lucrative trade.

Tour guides and other operators are also worried that a lengthy delay while hundreds of passengers go through immigration will erode the amount of time they spend on dry land.

Speaking at the Convention of the Highlands and Islands in Mareel on Monday morning, Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government would put together a delegation and lobby the border agency to have the changes overturned.

“I think the cruise ship regulations are frankly absurd,” he told this newspaper. “To add this complexity and burden and difficulty to the ability of visitors to go on cruises and conveniently access wonderful parts of the country like Shetland is to me just ludicrous.

“We had a very strong sense from the convention today of the need for us to tackle this issue head on. What I will arrange is for a very direct dialogue between the Scottish Government, leaders of the convention and the UK Border Agency to try and get some sense on this particular issue.”

He added: “When the cruise ships arrive, there is a limited window for the visitors to gain access to the islands and to be able to undertake their different visits. We have to make sure every opportunity is given to people to maximise their time on the islands.”

SIC convener Malcolm Bell said it was important to make it as easy as possible for tourists to see what the islands have to offer.

“Anything which puts a barrier in the way of passengers arriving is clearly not going to help showcase Shetland,” he said. “We will certainly support the government initiative to try and find a common sense and balanced approach.”

Last summer was a record season with 52 cruise ships paying a visit to Lerwick Harbour. In total they carried more than 37,000 passengers, generating significant tourist trade and considerable income for Lerwick Port Authority.

• The Scottish government will meet in Shetland – probably in Lerwick –  in July. Mr Swinney announced the visit while in the town today.

It is the sixth year the government has held summer cabinet meetings outside Edinburgh and he said there would also be an open meeting which the public are encouraged to attend and put questions to the ministers. 

Mr Swinney said: “The summer cabinet programme provides an excellent opportunity for the Scottish government to meet hundreds of people from communities across Scotland.

 “The Highlands and Islands make a substantial contribution to Scotland’s economy and culture. I am delighted to announce at the Convention of Highlands and Islands today that my cabinet colleagues will be meeting in Shetland this summer to hear first hand about the issues important to the people of Shetland and to set out what the Scottish government is doing to support the growth and prosperity of these islands now and in the future.”


Add Your Comment
  • JohnTulloch

    • March 26th, 2013 7:54

    Now that Jean Urquhart has gone to ground and Yes Shetland, following a brief, ill-starred, revoke of their “vow of silence” have now resumed it, perhaps, when they visit Shetland in July, Messrs Salmond, Swinney et al will give us their interpretation of the likely outocome of an independent Shetland’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) under international law?

  • Robert Peffers

    • March 26th, 2013 10:34

    @John Tulloch: “when they visit Shetland in July, Messrs Salmond, Swinney et al will give us their interpretation of the likely outocome of an independent Shetland’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) under international law?”

    No doubt, John, they will if you ask them the question. You are, though, likely to get an answer you do not really want to hear and that is International law, (and I quote): –

    Generally, a state’s EEZ extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles (370 km) out from its coastal baseline. The exception to this rule occurs when EEZs would overlap; that is, state coastal baselines are less than 400 nautical miles (740 km) apart. When an overlap occurs, it is up to the states to delineate the actual maritime boundary. Generally, any point within an overlapping area defaults to the nearest state. However, Under UNCLOS III, the islands would be regarded as an “enclave” residing wholly within The UK’s “Exclusive Economic Zone”, and so would only have the right to resources within a 12-mile radius of their coastline. So, before the Islands can gain independence from Scotland then Scotland herself must be independent or the Islands would become independent of the UK. In either case the Islands would become an enclave and gain nothing. The SG’s policy is to negotiate more devolved power for the Island’s in an independent Scotland and, that at least, would retain the Oil & Gas fund Shetland already has

  • Christopher Ritch

    • March 26th, 2013 12:20

    Robert, do you have a source for the claim that any EEZ would be limited to 12 miles?

  • Mike Grant

    • March 26th, 2013 13:06

    There are any number of reputable sources regarding Economic Exclusion Zones, and their extent with regard to islands and “island states”. Possibly the most relevant examples are those of the Channel Islands and also St Pierre and Miquelon. Miquelon wanted a full 200-mile exclusive economic zone, but since it was within Canada’s EEZ, had to settle for far less.


    Symmons, “The Maritime Zones of Islands in International Law”, and…
    Jayewardene, “The Regime of Islands in International Law”

  • Bill Brown

    • March 26th, 2013 18:02

    Territories are only considered to be enclaves when they lie within the areas of other states. The Channel Islands are UK enclaves inside French territorial waters, St Pierre and Miquelon are French enclaves in Canadian territorial waters. In both cases the economic zones were established by negotiation and it’s unthinkable that an EEZ would not be negotiated by all parties if Shetland were to leave Scottish jurisdiction. It would be in nobody’s interest for Scotland to make unrealistic demands, particularly when Shetland would hold the final trump card – the potential (if negotiation failed) of becoming a fully independent territory with its own 200 mile EEZ.

    Campaigners for Scottish independence regularly complain – with some justification – about the misinformation and scare stories spread by the media and anti-independence campaigners. If people are to make intelligent decisions about constitutional change in the future then we need more honest information and less hysterical polemic. The ‘Yes’ campaign should beware of spreading disinformation about Shetland’s constitutional choices.

  • JohnTulloch

    • March 26th, 2013 18:24

    Robert and Mike,

    The answers I am looking for on this and other aspects of increased Shetland autonomy will, I hope, be the truth so that I and others can decide our position on it based on facts, as opposed to wishful thinking on the SNP’s part.

    The reference Mr Ritch and I have been using was put up by an SNP supporter on another thread as evidence to support the very case you are making and it’s my impression that it’s a reputable source, a paper written by a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University and published in the European Journal of International Law.

    The problem is (if you care to look at the thread in question), the paper doesn’t bear out the claim the SNP is making and which you are repeating, namely, that an autonomous Shetland would be stuck with a 12nm Economic Exclusion Zone. Mr Ritch “nailed it” with his quote from Mahdi Zahraa’s excellent, readable paper available in full (pdf) at http://www.ejil.org/pdfs/12/1/505.pdf

    Jean Urquhart and Yes Shetland have been writing to the press separately with the same yarn, however, the comments thread to which I am referring is at https://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2013/03/18/tavish-baits-salmond-with-its-wir-oil-claim and I’d recommend having a good look at both the comments and Mahdi Zahraa’s paper.

  • simon peterson

    • March 26th, 2013 21:58

    I think that this is an example of the UK governments lack of knowledge of how our islands operate. They create legislation without even thinking about the consequences it can have on tourism. We would be much better off under the Scottish government rather than under the UK which doesn’t give a fig about us.

  • Christopher Ritch

    • March 26th, 2013 22:48

    Thank you Mike. So we can say that the boundaries of an EEZ are negotiable, should be equitable, and are NOT restricted to 12 miles.

  • Robert Peffers

    • March 27th, 2013 10:07

    @Christopher Ritch: Yes, Christopher but I already included it in my post. “UNCLOSS III”, is the, “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

    It not only states the law but gives several example cases. If I have two posts on this I’m sorry – my connection to the net dropped out.

  • Robert Peffers

    • March 27th, 2013 10:42

    @John Tulloch: ” as opposed to wishful thinking on the SNP’s part.”:

    John, this has absolutely nothing to do with your obvious party political bias. In the first place the existing situation is that the Government is, “The United Kingdom”, Thus, any independence sought by Shetland would be from the United Kingdom and its Coalition Government.

    In the second place if, after the referendum, Scotland were to become independent then who is to say the government that Shetland would be seeking independence from would be the present SNP administration. Please keep your own party political leanings out of this matter, whatever your loyalties chance to be. This is an International Law matter – not a party political Broadcast.

  • Robert Peffers

    • March 27th, 2013 10:55

    @John Tulloch: ” Mahdi Zahraa’s excellent, readable paper”.
    Just like to point out, John, that Mahdi Zahraa’s paper is dated in 2001. Rather before the latest International Law of the Seas information which is still on-going and regularly updated.

  • JohnTulloch

    • March 27th, 2013 11:51


    You’re starting to bluster.

    I am not member of any political party nor do I have any loyalty or “leanings” to any party. Regular followers of this blog will testify that I have challenged the follies and under-handed dealings of politicians of all the major parties and Tavish Scott has taken the brunt of it in the past.

    I repeat, I and others need to know the truth about EEZs and other issues related to autonomy for the islands so that we may form a reasoned view, based on facts.

    If the facts turn out to support your view that the islands’ EEZ would be restricted to 12nm then I am unlikely to support any policy which is clearly to the isles’ disadvantage.

    As a Shetlander I want the best for the isles irrespective of whether it suits YOUR party political leanings and I’d appreciate it if you would stick to the argument over international law – quoting appropriately identified passages – as opposed to to casting aspersions on the motivations of people you know nothing about, notably, myself.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • March 27th, 2013 12:46

    @ Robert Peffers, It makes no odd’s what Johns party political leanings are he is entitled to his view and he is entitled to voice it here. As for there being an SNP government in power after the referendum would depend on who won the next election. It is not a given that a yes vote will be the outcome and it is certainly not a given that that SNP will win the next election. So if you are going to slag someone off it would be a good idea to get your facts right first. To put things in a nutshell if the Scottish people have the right to vote to escape the upper class political idiots in Westminster we in Shetland have the right to escape the dictatorial political idiots in Holyrood.

  • Robert Peffers

    • March 28th, 2013 0:28

    @Gordon Harmer ” It makes no odd’s what Johns party political leanings are he is entitled to his view and he is entitled to voice it here”. I simply stated the obvious. I have no idea what his politics are except he was very much anti-SNP and unjustifiably so. The debate had nothing to do with party politics. Nor did I deny him his point of view. The matter is one of International law. There is more than enough Red Herrings being dragged across the trail by the British Nationalists. I already see another topic here in the Shetland Times. The reference to the rUK. I can give you the rights of that one too. In 1603 Jamie Saxt could NOT form a legal United Kingdom. With the three country Kingdom of England because Scottish Monarchs are NOT sovereign. In Scotland he did not have divine right of Kings – so he moved to the three country Kingdom of England where he had. A Kingdom that annexed Wales by the Statute of Rhuddlan, (1284), and Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act, (1542), but all three countries had sovereign monarchs while the people of Scotland are Sovereign. In 1688 the English Parliament threw out the Stewarts and brought in the joint Hanoverian Monarchs, William, (of Orange), & Mary, but they also removed the royal veto over parliament from them That Kingdom became, “A Constitutional Monarchy”. It also kicked off the Jacobite uprisings because the Scots wanted to reinstate the Stewarts in Scotland. The uprisings spanned the Treaty of Union until 1745. That is why the English needed the Treaty of Union so badly they engineered the bankruptcy of the Major Scottish landowners, “The Paircel o Rogues”. But that’s another story. The point is that, “The Treaty of Union”, is a bipartite treaty and when such treaties end the Status Quo ante is BOTH parties revert to independence. In this case Kingdoms. What the hang else did you imagine the name, “United Kingdom”, meant? So no rUK and, as England has no legally elected parliament Westminster ends on Independence day and Scotland can claim International Law should NOT recognize the illegal Parliament of Westminster. English law demands a parliament is elected as such. It is, you see, Her Majesty’s Parliament. Just as it is Her Majesty’s armed forces – et al. Sorry but I couldn’t shorten the point and it’s long.

  • JohnTulloch

    • March 28th, 2013 11:06

    @robert peffers,

    You should be a football manager…. “If ye cannae win the baa’ get the man!”

    You know next to nothing about me, here’s how little;-

    For the record, the SNP have been relatively competent, politically and practically, compared to any of the previous, ham-fisted, amateurish Scottish governments and that is why they have been successful and I don’t have problem with that or the referendum which they are perfectly entitled to hold.

    I do however reserve the same right for island peoples to do likewise.

    Where the SNP veil has slipped showing their true, dictatorial face has been in the areas of renewable energy where they have railroaded projects through local opposition (irrelevant here) and more recently, their misleading statements about whether Shetland will be allowed to be independent of Scotland and that it would be stuck with the 12 nm EEZ prescribed – wishfully – by the SNP.

    I’m unsure what relevance your rigmarole above has to do with rights of self-determination and division of resources in the 21st century?

    I repeat my invitation to stick to the point, providing appropriately identified, relevant quotes so that we may learn the true facts and thus arrive at a reasoned view of what is best for the future of Shetland.


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