LISTEN: Pete Wishart endorses NFU Scotland’s letter to the government
Perth and North Perhshire MP, Pete Wishart, has endorsed a letter written to several MP’s calling on the government to allow 70,000 seasonal workers into the country by 2021.
When free movement comes to an end, immigrants will need to apply to work in the UK, 100% of respondents from NFU Scotland’s members said they rely on these workers every year.
Endorsing NFU’s letter to the government, Mr Wishart said: “We need immediate action from the UK Government in relation to the rules for seasonal workers in 2021.
“Farmers are making decisions now about what sort of crops will be grown and in what quantities. Without certainty from the UK Government, this job is like having one hand tied behind your back.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Seasonal workers are essential to bring in the harvest every year, which is why we are continuing to work hard to ensure our farmers and growers have the support and workforce they need.
“Whilst the UK prepares to leave the EU, Defra is working closely with the Home Office to ensure that there is a long term strategy for the food and farming workforce as part of future immigration policy.”
The scheme which allows for ‘the recruitment of a limited number of temporary migrants for specific roles in the horticultural sector’ has allowed for 2,500 workers to enter the UK, which the government has now increased to 10,000.
NFU Scotland says that every year, approximately 10,000 seasonal workers come to Scotland to work on Scotland’s farms for between six and nine months and is calling on the government to meet their expected 70,000 worker demand.
Mr Wishart added: “We have had the pilot seasonal workers scheme this year, but we need a permanent scheme so that our food producers and growers have the certainty they need to do forward planning.
“Failure to protect our domestic growers will only lead to a greater reliance on imported food. We must do everything we can to support high-quality local produce.”
Chair of the Union’s Specialist Crops committee, James Porter, said: “The industry’s response during the pandemic has shown how vital a reliable, experienced overseas workforce, with a high level of returnees, is to these sectors.
“More than 40 percent NFUS horticultural members who responded to our most recent survey stated that they would cease activity altogether if they could not recruit workers from outside the UK. Loss of this productive capacity because of worker shortages would be highly damaging to Scotland’s agricultural output and the rural economies and communities which horticultural operations underpin in Scotland.”
Free movement from within the EU will come to an end on the 1st of January 2021, meaning that these workers will no longer be able to migrate for the harvest seasons without clearing their work with immigration.
Mr Porter added: ““That is why the UK Government must arrive quickly at a decision which genuinely recognises the clear need for Scottish and UK horticultural operators to recruit workers from outside the UK through a sector-specific, seasonal scheme.
“The lead-in time for recruiting seasonal labour is around nine months and it is the view of NFUS that the UK Government’s lack of clarity on the sector’s ability to recruit workers from outside the UK from January 2021 onwards is untenable.”