Crucial Role of Non-UK Labour in Scottish Food, Farming

SCOTLAND, UK - A key goal of NFU Scotland is to ensure continued access to non-UK workers, both permanent and temporary, post-Brexit.
calendar icon 3 September 2019
clock icon 3 minute read

Last week, NFU Scotland called on the Government to make essential decisions affecting the availability of non-UK labour with urgency. Writing to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, the Union underlined the critical role in Scottish food and farming of non-UK nationals in filling seasonal, temporary and permanent positions in delivering high-quality Scottish produce from field to fork.

Governments, MPs, MSPs, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), researchers and others regularly question the scale of the problem. The survey launched yesterday (2 September) seeks to address the fact that much of the information on the vital role of non-UK staff is anecdotal – especially on permanent workers.

Ahead of an expected consultation from the MAC and to better inform NFU Scotland’s lobbying, farm-based and agri-food businesses are asked to complete the short survey by Monday 23 September.

The survey is available to all online (please click here).

There are two sections, one each for non-seasonal and seasonal workers (e.g. those who come in the summer for harvest work). For permanent staff, the Union is also keen to establish if non-UK workers have applied to the UK Government’s EU Settled Status Scheme.

On seasonal workers, the Union is asking further question on the success or otherwise of the pilot Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS). In its letter to the Home Office, the Union called for 80,000 SAWS permits to be made available.

President Andrew McCornick said: "We are absolutely convinced that without non-UK workers, many farm-based businesses and the agri-food supply chain will be unproductive and unable to maintain the provision of food to UK consumers. But we need facts and figures to back up our lobbying effort on this and I urge anyone affected to complete this short survey.

"There is complete reliance in the soft fruit and field vegetable sectors on a non-UK seasonal workforce. Whilst the SAWS Pilot scheme is certainly a step in the right direction, it will not provide nearly enough permits if shortages such as those experienced in 2017 and 2018 arise.

"Should the Home Office end free movement in the event of a no deal on 31 October 2019 then the Government must act with urgency now to ensure up to 80,000 seasonal permits are available for a non-UK workforce to undertake work next season.

"On permanent workers, the proposal for all permanent staff coming into the UK to be working in a job that pays upwards of £30,000 is unworkable within the Scottish context and sets an arbitrary threshold with no basis in the reality of employment patterns within Scottish agriculture or food and drink processing.

"If the proposed immigration scheme is not amended to provide access to lower paid workers then the Shortage Occupation List must be expanded. Gaining facts through this survey will allow us to submit the strongest evidence for a differentiated proposal for workers in Scottish farming and agri-food."

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