Scottish horticulture and potato growers who make use of the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) scheme are being encouraged to complete an online survey.
Farming union NFU Scotland (NFUS) says evidence gathered from the survey will be used to support its lobbying efforts to have the SWP scheme extended and the number of visas on offer increased.
On Christmas Eve last year the UK Government confirmed the scheme, which allows foreign workers to come to the UK for up to six months to pick both edible and ornamental crops – will run until the end of 2024 and be extended to include the ornamentals sector.
It said the number of visas available under the scheme – which is also known as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) – will remain at 30,000 for 2022, with the potential to increase to 40,000, and from 2023 the scheme will begin to wind down.
NFUS and its counterparts south of the border have previously asked for the number of visas available to the UK to be extended to 55,700.
“The UK Government announcement about the tapering down of the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme is bad news for the industry and will make the labour crisis worse,” said NFUS policy manager for crops, David Michie.
He said although the Scottish horticultural sector only accounts for 1% of the country’s land area, it is responsible for 16% of Scotland’s agricultural output and its success is dependent on securing the necessary labour.
Mr Michie added: “I urge all NFU Scotland members who employ seasonal workers through the SWP scheme to complete our short survey; the information we gather will be used as evidence to lobby government.”
He said evidence was vital for the union’s lobbying efforts, especially when engaging with the Home Office.
“There was a risk that the SWP scheme was going to be reduced this year, however lobbying by a range of organisations including NFU Scotland prevented this from happening,” added Mr Michie.
“Please help us keep up the pressure on this issue.”
The survey can be found online here.