How Will Scottish Food & Farming Secure Its Workforce In The Future?

How will Scottish food and farming secure its workforce in the future?
NFUS Political Affairs Manager Clare Slipper

A major change for employment into both temporary and permanent roles in Scottish agriculture is coming writes Political Affairs Manager Clare Slipper in the latest NFU Scotland blog.

The Union has just made its latest submission to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) after hundreds of members responded to its recent employment and wages survey, highlighting how crucial an issue labour is to the sector.

In January 2021, the UK Government will end the free movement of people from the EU and will implement a new points-based system of immigration and it is fair to say that the UK Government’s proposed points-based system has been a bone of contention not just for NFU Scotland members, but for the wider business community too.

Clare writes: “NFU Scotland has always been vehemently opposed to the use of skill and salary thresholds – tools which we consider to be entirely arbitrary and not reflective of the labour-market situation in Scotland or the rural economy.  Whilst the skills and salary thresholds within the new points-based system remain relatively inflexible, the use of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) becomes incredibly important for our sector. An expanded SOL could be the only tool available to ensure that agricultural businesses can continue employing competent and enthusiastic individuals from overseas into jobs on-farm and off-farm.”

This week, NFU Scotland submitted a response to the MAC’s consultation on the SOL, informed by our Employment and Wages Survey which hundreds of members responded to throughout May and June.

The union believes the three criteria which the MAC consider before recommending an occupation is added to the SOL – proof that the role itself is in shortage; whether it meets the required skill level; and whether it is ‘sensible’ to add the role to the list – are all met through the evidence it has provided.  The MAC will deliver its advice to the UK Government in September.

In conclusion, Clare writes: “Early on within the COVID-19 crisis, our workers and those in the wider food industry were identified as key workers and specifically called upon by both the Scottish and UK Governments to continue in our work of putting produce on the shelves. Pair this with Scotland’s demographic challenges in rural areas and a fall in the working-age population, and it is clear that there is a role for immigration policy to encourage workers from overseas into vacancies that are hard-to-fill domestically.”

Read the full blog at: https://www.nfus.org.uk/news/blog/political-affairs-managersw-blog-26-june-2020