Scottish Government report highlights Brexit farm worker worries

Major concern over future workforce and labour issues is one of the highlighted items listed in parliamentary report published today by the Scottish Government, which details the views and concerns around Brexit of more than 150 Scottish organisations and individuals.

“Many of the submissions that the (Brexit) Committee received highlighted the important contribution made by EU27 citizens to specific sub-sectors of the agriculture, food and drinks industry, and raised concerns regarding future labour market needs,” it is stated in the report.

“NFU Scotland noted that, for example; ‘there is not a single fruit farm in Scotland that could operate without access to overseas workers and there are many other farms and crofts which also rely on similar staff’.

“NFU Scotland estimated that there are between 5,000 and 15,000 seasonal workers from the EU employed within the Scottish agricultural sector at any one time. It also said that the significant number of EU27 citizens employed within the food and drink processing sector cannot be ignored. For example, the submission from NFU Scotland quoted estimates from the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) that an estimated 50% of the workforce in some of Scotland’s abattoirs and meat processing plants are non-UK nationals.

“The submission concluded that “with the Scottish red meat processing sector providing direct employment for approximately 2,700 people, the possible implications of the loss of this labour could be severe.

“One recommendation proposed by the NFU Scotland was a re-introduction of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), which came to an end in 2012. It noted that take-up of the quota was very high and was 98% when the scheme ended in 2012. The majority of workers coming into the UK under SAWS were students seeking to fund their education and did not attempt to stay in the UK. Such a scheme should therefore be considered separate of the wider debate around immigration.

“Scotland Food and Drinks’ submission made similar points, noting that there were around 39,000 non-UK born nationals currently working in the food and drink sector in Scotland and that it was “critical to reassure existing EU workers that their rights to work will be maintained” and that “we must ensure that any future UK/Scottish migration policy encourages EU27 citizens of all skills levels to work in the food and drinks industry.”

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