NFUS Seeks Members Views on Migration Consultation

Members encouraged to join discussion as UK Government considers a new immigration framework after Brexit

NFU Scotland is calling on its members to respond to its consultation on the UK Government’s Shortage Occupation List which looks to develop new immigration policies for post Brexit.

Non-UK nationals work in essential seasonal and permanent positions across Scottish agriculture, food processing and road haulage – playing a vital role in delivering high-quality Scottish produce from field to fork.

NFU Scotland has always been clear in its view that any barrier to non-UK nationals coming to work in Scotland during or after the UK’s exit from the EU would cause considerable disruption to the entire agriculture and food supply chain.

Scottish farm businesses employ up to 10,000 non-UK nationals in seasonal positions in the soft fruit and field vegetable sectors every year. In addition approximately 80 per cent of vets in approved meat establishments, 33 per cent of permanent staff in the dairy sector and a significant proportion of lorry drivers come from outside the UK.

NFU Scotland’s consultation opened in early December and will accept comments up to Monday 24 December and would encourage all members to respond.

Adding further impetus to respond is the publication today of a UK Government White Paper which invites consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for migrants seeking five-year visas. Under the UK Government’s plans, what are deemed to be ‘low skilled’ workers may be able to apply for short-term visas of up to a year. This concession might be of some assistance to the horticulture sector which requires a large number of seasonal workers, however could be very damaging for other parts of the agriculture, food and drink processing, and road haulage sectors which extensively employ migrants in ‘low skilled’ occupations on a permanent basis.

Commenting on the Committee’s recommendations, NFU Scotland Horticulture Chair James Porter said: “Despite the Union having fed extensively into the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) deliberations since summer 2017, it is hugely disappointing that in its recommendations it has not heeded the strong evidence that Scottish agriculture and associated industries, such as food processing and road haulage, require routes to employ non-UK workers in what are deemed less ‘skilled’, but nonetheless very competent, permanent positions.

“NFU Scotland is particularly concerned by the MAC’s recommendation that there should not be employer-led or sector-based routes for ‘lower-skilled’ migrants. Saying that employers need to improve pay and conditions to compete for workers is not straight forward – and to characterise the industry in this way is deeply troubling to NFU Scotland and our members.

“Whilst it is true that there are opportunities for formal education in farm skills to encourage the UK workforce into these positions, the problems of attracting and training enough suitable UK workers is long standing and the work is simply not appealing to many people.

“Any future immigration system must be based on a realistic expectation of the ability and availability of UK workers to fill the many and varied jobs currently carried out by non-UK migrant workers and it is frustrating that the evidence provided by NFU Scotland and others in the agriculture, food processing and road haulage industries in this regard has not been recognised in MAC’s recommendations to the UK Government.  

“It is becoming clear to NFU Scotland that there is a misleading and damaging rhetoric coming from UK Government and its advisors on where the gaps in skills and labour are and it is very concerning to us, and other stakeholders in the wider food and drink processing industry, that the strong evidence of our sectors has not been heeded as the UK Government considers a new immigration system for the UK.

“That is why it is vital our members continue to feed us strong evidence in order to respond to this consultation robustly, giving us the basis on which to make the case for a new immigration system post-Brexit that ensures agriculture, food and drink processing, and the whole range of downstream industries can continue to employ non-UK staff on a seasonal and permanent basis in both ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ positions.”

Notes to Editor


Contact Douglas Ross on 0131 472 4059

Author: Douglas Ross

Date Published:

News Article No.: 180/18

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