Government ministers have been urged to see sense and roll back changes to visa rules which are costing churches thousands of pounds, and threaten the future of religious groups across Renfrewshire.
New rules forced through by the Home Office earlier this year mean religious workers now face a massive 150% increase in fees for priests and ministers visiting Scotland – with Renfrewshire churches such as St Conval’s in Linwood having to freeze plans for the future.
Traditionally churches and other places of worship have used overseas clergy to cover for holidays and sick leave taken by longer-term religious leaders.
But the UK Government’s changes have left churches struggling to cope with skyrocketing fees and bureaucratic processes.
Gavin Newlands MP, Paisley and Renfrewshire North, raised the issue in Parliament last week, and slammed Government ministers for their approach.
“Not only can individual churches not afford these elevated costs, but wider dioceses can’t absorb the full cost imposed on dozens of parishes and places of worship.
“For years our communities and society have been enrichened and supported by religious workers coming to Scotland on a short-term basis to help parishioners and worshippers.
“Places of worship play a vital role in our local communities, and for the Home Office to sneakily place obstacles in the way of those who want to help their fellow human beings is truly shameful.
“The SNP and I are urging the Minister to see sense, listen to the voices across the political and religious spectrum condemning this move, and scrap this piece of bureaucratic nonsense.”