Politicians’ Brexit fruit fears
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