Tuesday 11 August 2009

Pipe Band Championships

I'm annoyed and disappointed by the news that the UK Border Agency has made a mess of the visa applications of the Lahore Pipe Band, who were aiming to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships on Saturday. A trade delegation from Lahore have also had their applications refused.

The Worlds are an amazing international event, bringing bands from around the world to Glasgow Green. We are extremely
privileged to have such an event in Glasgow.

I saw the band compete in 2007, and they added a splash of colour to proceedings otherwise marked by torrential downpours. It was great to see, among the sea of black overcoats, the green, red and gold headdresses of the Pakistani pipers. It's a real shame if they're not going to make it over in time for the Championships.

I find it really difficult to understand why this type of misunderstanding happens time and time again. When Motherwell played Flamurtari from Albania a few weeks ago, there was a very real possiblity several of their team being refused entry into the country due to visa problems with the UK Embassy.

This kind of problem seems fairly regular in football, particuarly for some players. Jason Scotland (who famously featured in an Irn Bru ad!) has recently had difficulties in completing his signing for Wigan due to visa delays. This wasn't the first time he had faced the problem though, having had difficulties when playing for Dundee United and St Johnstone.

If you're coming as part of a delegation, and there are no reasonable barriers (criminal records, previous issues when visiting) to coming to visit for a few days, why do these problems keep cropping up? Is it because the UK Border Agency have no knowledge or interest in events in Scotland? Are they genuinely unaware or unsympathetic to the needs of large groups travelling for work or leisure?

Whatever the reason, it seems crazy in this year of Homecoming that tourists keen to visit Scotland find the UKBA slamming the door in their face.

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