The official launch of the government’s Brexit-inspired pilot seasonal workers scheme has been given a somewhat cool welcome in Scotland.
The scheme allows UK fruit and vegetable farmers to employ up to 2,500 non-EU migrant workers for seasonal work for up to six months, a concession which NFU Scotland (NFUS) says is nowhere near enough.
The union’s horticultural chairman, James Porter, said: “Although we are pleased the government has acknowledged the industry requires a seasonal workers scheme, the 2,500 worker permits are nowhere near the amount the industry requires.
“This figure of 2,500 would barely be enough to cover Scotland’s shortages, never mind the whole of the UK.
Kirstene Hair, Scottish Conservative MP for Angus, said the scheme would not be a silver bullet for farmers. Having campaigned to secure the scheme on behalf of Scottish farmers, she said she now wanted to see it monitored by the government, with action taken quickly to improve it, when and where appropriate.
She added: “I also want to see a clear route to this becoming a permanent system to ensure our producers have access to the labour they need.”
The pilot scheme is due to run until the end of December 2020, after which it will be reviewed before any decisions are taken on running a future scheme.