Publised date : 22 Sep 2020

Perthshire North MSP, Mr John Swinney, and Perth and North Perthshire MP, Mr Pete Wishart, have today called on the UK Government to provide clarity on the future of the Seasonal Workers Scheme for 2021 and beyond.

Their intervention comes after the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFU Scotland) urged the UK Government to quickly confirm what steps they will be taking to allow growers to recruit non-UK staff following the cessation of freedom of movement next year. NFU Scotland made clear that they supported the continuation of a fully-functional Seasonal Workers Scheme, and that significantly more non-UK staff than the current pilot scheme allowed would have to be recruited to meet demand in 2021.

Commenting, Mr Swinney said:

“The UK Government’s indecision is posing significant problems for local farmers. At a time of unprecedented uncertainty for the soft-fruit sector as a result of the Tories’ self-inflicted, damaging Brexit, soft-fruit farmers across Tayside need to know where they stand well in advance of next year’s season.

“The UK Government must extend and massively expand their Seasonal Workers Scheme in order to ensure that farmers across the region have sufficient access to labour. The decision to extend this scheme must be taken and publicly confirmed as a matter of urgency, and it is a disgrace that the SNP, in addition to the National Farmers Union, are again having to spell out this obvious fact to Westminster. 

“If the Tory Government are not competent enough to rectify the damage that their immigration policies are causing to Tayside farmers, then they should devolve these powers to the Scottish Parliament and allow the SNP to prioritise the needs of farmers.”
 
Mr Wishart added:
 
“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.
 
“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.”

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