Secretary of State backs musician to remain in UK

Steve Forman, pictured at last year's Tartan Clef music awards, is battling to stay in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin

Steve Forman, pictured at last year's Tartan Clef music awards, is battling to stay in Scotland. Picture: John Devlin

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THE Secretary of State for Scotland is backing a fight to keep a top American session musician in this country.

Alistair Carmichael is to press his UK government colleagues in the Home Office to think again about the case of percussionist Steve Forman.

Dr Forman, 68, a lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and a resident of the city, played with musical legends such as Pink Floyd and David Bowie. He is facing deportation as the Home Office argues his income is too low.

An immigration appeal judge last month issued a ruling in his favour, but the Home Office has asked for permission to appeal against the decision.

Now Mr Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, has agreed to intervene on Dr Forman’s behalf and is to meet Tory immigration minister James Brokenshire to discuss the issue.

Dr Forman’s MP, Labour’s Ann McKechin, has also been involved, and the musician welcomed their interventions.

He said: “I’m grateful to them for getting involved, although I don’t know what the legal implications are. In general, I feel good that the UK has a legal system that can move laterally – that’s what the appeals process is for.

“On the other hand, I’m really frustrated. I’m in limbo. I really want to move forward. I understand the system is working, though. I’m just glad it’s there.”

Almost 4,000 people have signed a petition to keep Dr Forman in the country, and a spokesman for Mr Carmichael said: “It’s fair to say that the Secretary of State is sympathetic to the cause.

“He will be talking to the Home Office within the next couple of days, and discussions are ongoing.”

Dr Forman does not claim benefits and told an immigration appeal tribunal in December that he earned in the region of £5,000 a month once his salary, royalties and other sources of income were taken into account. He said this was above the minimum salary requirements for a Tier 2 visa, with the UK government website citing a level of £31,200 for higher education teachers.

The hearing in Glasgow, attended by dozens of Dr Forman’s supporters, including many of his students, heard of the enormous contribution he had made to the cultural life of Scotland over the past six years.

He argued he should be allowed to stay under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, providing the right to respect for private and family life.

The judge ruled last month that Dr Forman had presented an exceptionally strong case to be allowed to stay.

Ms McKechin, the MP for Glasgow North, met Mr Carmichael on Wednesday and said: “I think he accepted that Steve is an asset and that he is self-supporting. I met with him just to explain the circumstances. He accepted they were unique and said he would meet with James Brokenshire in the next few days.

“Alistair Carmichael is asking the Home Office to examine the file. The level of concern expressed across Scotland – locally and nationally – has prompted him to speak to [Mr Brokenshire].

“The Home Office ultimately have to make the decision, but I would hope they would reconsider.”

She added: “I, along with many others, do not want [Dr Forman] to endure yet another long period in limbo and with the worry and frustration this brings.”

The musician is credited on the film scores of ET and Pretty Woman and has recorded with the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac, among others.

Nobody from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was available for comment, and the Home Office did not reply to a request for comment last night.

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