Farm­ing union calls for clar­ity on sea­sonal work­ers

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - NEWS - JENNIFER MCKIERNAN WEST­MIN­STER CORRESPONDENT

A farm­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion has called for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on post-Brexit im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, par­tic­u­larly around sea­sonal work­ers.

Na­tional Farm­ers Union Scot­land (NFUS) pol­icy di­rec­tor Jonathan Hall con­firmed that farm­ers are find­ing it harder to source sea­sonal fruit pick­ers and said plans should be set out “sooner rather than later” to ad­dress the is­sue.

Mr Hall made a plea for Sea­sonal Agri­cul­tural Work­ers Scheme visas to be re­in­stated.

He said: “We must have ac­cess to skilled labour, both on and off farms, both sea­sonal and per­ma­nent. Our num­bers of soft fruit pick­ers in An­gus are al­ready drop­ping.

“For the last 16 months we have been ask­ing about free­dom of move­ment and con­trolled move­ment, but we just get si­lence.

“We will get to a point where there will be some sort of sea­sonal agri­cul­tural work­ers scheme, which seemed to work quite well and it gave suf­fi­cient con­trol.”

Theresa May scrapped the pre­vi­ous visa sys­tem in 2007, fol­low­ing the EU ac­ces­sion of Bul­garia and Ro­ma­nia, and calls for it to be re­in­stated fol­low­ing Brexit have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Mr Hall added that he did not think there was much al­ter­na­tive, given that any sort of dif­fer­en­ti­ated im­mi­gra­tion deal for Scot­land would lead to border con­trols, so a regis­tra­tion scheme would have to be the main op­tion.

He said: “I can’t see Scot­land hav­ing its own im­mi­gra­tion scheme be­cause I don’t want to see some sort of check­point at Ber­wick.

“We’re also in the same po­si­tion as col­leagues south of the border be­cause there is a huge re­quire­ment for sea­sonal work­ers across pro­cess­ing, ab­ba­toirs, vets.

“If we can have elec­tronic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for sheep and goats, we should be able to set up an elec­tronic regis­tra­tion sys­tem, but we have not had any real an­swers at all.

“We’re look­ing for the govern­ment to re­solve these is­sues sooner rather than later, but it is an area we have strug­gled to get any trac­tion on.”

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokes­woman said: “Agri­cul­ture and ru­ral pol­icy are al­ready fully de­volved, and we will strongly op­pose any at­tempt to repa­tri­ate pow­ers from Brus­sels to West­min­ster in­stead of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment.

“Scot­tish farm­ers should not be left a penny worse off as a re­sult of Brexit, and we sup­port the NFUS in push­ing the UK Govern­ment for guar­an­tees to that ef­fect.”

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