Joan McAlpine MSP has appealed to the Home Secretary to protect the award winning local creamery Loch Arthur from the effects of leaving the European Union.
Ms McAlpine wrote to Amber Rudd after a visit to Loch Arthur in Beeswing, which is run by the Camphill Scotland charity.
Loch Arthur is home to learning disabled adults who live and work beside volunteers from across Europe, many of whom are also long term residents. Often the volunteers are skilled occupational therapists and teachers.
Camphill Scotland fear immigration rules after Brexit could stop future volunteers coming to Scotland and will hurt hundreds of disabled people who rely on their support.
The community, which has a farm shop and cafe as well as a bakery and creamery, was recognised as the best “Hidden Gem” at last week’s Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.
Speaking during a visit to Loch Arthur on Friday, the MSP said she was concerned to hear about the impact post-Brexit rules will have on these volunteers who do not meet the current income criteria for UK residency because they do not draw a salary.
During her visit, Ms McAlpine was told of a highly skilled American volunteer, who worked in the bakery as well as supporting residents - but as an unsalaried third country national, she was sent back to America under UK immigration rules.
Camphill fear that unless specific exemptions are made, future volunteers from Germany, Spain and France and other EU countries will find themselves in a similar position.
The SNP MSP said:
“Loch Arthur is a very special place where people with support needs live and work collectively - in shared houses - with volunteers.
“But the Camphill community relies on young volunteers from Europe – with many staying for decades, and forming strong, familial bonds with those they support.
“I am extremely concerned that these long term volunteers will no-longer be able to meet residency rules post Brexit – and will be made to leave. These volunteers are selfless. They work for nothing and the community as a whole allocate money on the basis of needs - for example for clothing and travel. It’s awful that people like that could be punished for being caring.”
Ms McAlpine added:
“I have written to the UK Home Secretary to try and get some clarity on this matter, and have asked for the forthcoming immigration bill to consider making exceptions for communities such as Camphill.
“These communities have transformed the lives of so many vulnerable people thanks to the voluntary work of EU nationals, and it is essential that they are given reassurances that this will continue to be the case post-Brexit.”
The Camphill Community was established in 1939 by a group of Austrian Emigres who followed the teaching of Rudolf Steiner, who believed that education could benefit every child, whatever their ability.
Photo shows L-R Susanne Salthammer, Pamela Wamfley, Joan McAlpine and Magdalena Weiher