The immigration minister has pledged the door will be shut on the "scandal" of allowing cheap foreign labour to replace British workers in serving Scotland's green revolution.

Robert Jenrick has said that a controversial Offshore Wind Workers Concession (OWWC) which allows the employment of cheaper foreign nationals on wind projects will close on April, 2023.

He was responding to concerns raised by Alba Party deputy leader Kenny MacAskill after at least one predominantly British-based crew is known to have been let go on the day they were due to start work on one of Scotland's largest offshore wind farms - with recruiters citing the extension as the reason.

Unions have been fighting the OWWC which allows companies to skip the usual post-Brexit immigration restrictions and employ foreign nationals to join vessels engaged in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind farms.

Originally introduced in 2017, the government has renewed the 'temporary' concession multiple times starting with a 12 month extension to April 21, 2020. In 2021 the extension was done with no warning, on the day after it expired.

READ MORE: UK wind farm staff swapped for foreign crew in Scots green revolution

A deadline was put in place on July 1, 2022 only for it to be extended to October 31 before being put back even further till April 30, 2023. It is feared that this has now laid the door open for the continued use of cheap foreign workers.

But it has emerged that Mr Jenrick has said in response to concerns raised by former justice secretary Mr MacAskill that the concession will not be extended any further.

HeraldScotland: East Lothian MP, Kenny MacAskill, spoke about Scottish independence at the Wee ALBA book launch in Tranent last week

Scottish Renewables, the voice of Scotland's green energy industry has revealed the industry had made private moves as early as August, last year to call for the UK government to end the concession to "increase economic opportunities for UK companies and workers in offshore wind".

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “As an industry we expect anyone working on UK offshore wind projects to be paid at least the national minimum wage, regardless of where in UK waters those projects are located.”

The decision by the UK government to extend the concession comes after concerns by the industry that offshore wind farm operators would struggle to maintain operational continuity due to a shortage of skilled and qualified staff.

It was confirmed that as a result of the extension, at least 36 predominantly British crew recruited in anticipation of the concession ending have been given their marching orders in the wake of the extension.

The workers were employed on the Normand Navigator, a Norway-registered key supply ship working on the huge £2 billion Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm project in the Firth of Forth off Fife.

It is expected that they will be replaced by the Filipino crew that had previously worked on it.


National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) sources say that means a British deck hand who would be paid £18 to £20 an hour will be replaced by cheaper Asian workers.

Norwegian offshore service and supply ship shipping company Solstad, which owns the vessel, say their crew salaries are in line with at least the national minimum wage which is at £9.50 an hour.

Recruiters ERSG, who act for Solstad said in a notice of termination dated November 8 sent to staff on Normand Navigator that the firm informed them that they wish to terminate the employment agreement "prior to its start on November 8 because the requirement for workers has changed. This is the result of the extension by the UK government of the Offshore Wind Workers' Concession."

Mr MacAskill said the actions of the Home Office had created another injustice alongside the "shameful" sacking of UK seafarers by P&O Ferries.

In March, P&O Ferries immediately fired 800 seafaring staff by Zoom with concerns that they were to be replaced by cheaper mainly foreign agency crew.

He has lodged his concerns with Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Scottish energy secretary, Michael Matheson.

He told Ms Braverman that the concession extension had allowed employment of non-European Economic Area nationals to join vessels engaged in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind projects in UK waters.

"The transport department have recently closed a loophole which allowed P&O Ferries to sack 800 of its workers, the Home Office are now creating another loophole by extending the Offshore Wind Worker Concession. If further job losses are to be avoided this must be remedied immediately."

He also asked Jenrick how the British job cuts could be allowed to happen.

Mr Jenrick responded: "We're not allowing that to happen. The Nationality and Borders Act led to a short extension in the practice until April 2023, at which point it comes to a close and so the valid criticisms will be put into 7effect very, very shortly."


Jake Molloy, Aberdeen-based regional organiser of the RMT says that while it is claimed that staff were being paid at least minimum wage, they have experience of contractors paying well as low as £3.60 per hour.

He added: "The fact they are flying workers half-way around the world is a direct contradiction of the UK and Scottish Government’s commitments to a Just Transition creating thousands of good, well-paid jobs in a green recovery.

“This demonstrates we are a million miles away from that, and that in fact exploitation of workers on low rates of pay to boost already massive profits is the order of the day."