Politi­cians’ Brexit fruit fears

Blairgowrie Advertiser - - NEWS - Ross Gar­diner

East Perthshire politi­cians have writ­ten to the Home Sec­re­tary in West­min­ster re­gard­ing the fu­ture of the area’s soft fruit in­dus­try.

John Swin­ney MSP and Pete Wishart MP have both con­tacted Am­ber Rudd MP over the se­cu­rity of sea­sonal work­ers, who pro­vide more than 90 per cent of the UK’s work­force on fruit farms, and their rights to travel to and work in the UK af­ter Brexit.

Mr Swin­ney said: “Perthshire, and Tayside, is home to the ma­jor­ity of soft fruit pro­duc­tion in Scot­land. It is vi­tal to the lo­cal econ­omy.

“The rep­u­ta­tion of our lo­cal pro­duce is sec­ond to none but the sec­tor faces se­vere chal­lenges in the face of Brexit. Perthshire’s rep­u­ta­tion for first rate soft fruit will be worth­less if there are no work­ers to pick the berries in the fu­ture.

“The soft fruit sec­tor is a mul­ti­mil­lion pound in­dus­try. The UK Govern­ment’s re­sponse to its needs, and con­cerns, has so far been se­ri­ously lack­ing.

“There are re­ports of food be­ing left to rot in fields across the UK be­cause of a lack of EU na­tion­als tak­ing up sea­sonal work here. Th­ese work­ers have been put off com­ing to the UK as a re­sult of the Tories’ Brexit ob­ses­sion.

“With such an im­por­tant sec­tor to the Scot­tish econ­omy so re­liant on the ser­vices of sea­sonal work­ers, it is time for the UK Govern­ment to re­spond to the con­tin­u­ous calls for clar­ity in re­la­tion to the fu­ture of the soft fruit sec­tor post-Brexit and, in par­tic­u­lar, the rights of work­ers from the EU.”

Mr Wishart said: “I have met with a num­ber of soft fruit pro­duc­ers in my con­stituency since the Brexit vote and all have raised se­ri­ous con­cerns about work­force pro­vi­sion and their abil­ity to ex­port go­ing for­ward.

“The soft fruit sec­tor is se­ri­ously im­por­tant to the Perthshire econ­omy. It isn’t just the fruit busi­nesses them­selves but all the knock-on in­vest­ment in other lo­cal busi­nesses which we could lose out on.

“I raised this is­sue in the House of Com­mons some months back and whilst the re­sponse from UK Govern­ment was some­what warm at the time, I feel like we are no fur­ther for­ward.

“The sec­tor has still not re­ceived as­sur­ances from Govern­ment and dur­ing my de­bate not a sin­gle newly elected Tory MP even turned up. Con­sid­er­ing that many of them rep­re­sent con­stituen­cies with a strong soft fruit sec­tor, I find this ap­palling.

“The UK Govern­ment must re­spond to th­ese calls. The sec­tor has waited long enough and needs to have greater cer­tainty to al­low them to plan for fu­ture year’s crop and work­force.”

Sup­port Pete Wishart MP with Ge­orge McLaren of McLaren Fruit Pick­ing, Bankhead of Kin­loch, Mei­gle, last year

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