An early commitment is needed from the UK Government to establish post-Brexit sector schemes that will enable farms and other rural businesses to keep employing workers from abroad, according to Scottish Land & Estates.
The organisation, which represents land-based businesses, farmers and landowners across Scotland, says it will remain important for employers to be able to recruit workers from EU countries and beyond as well as resident workers.
Scottish Land & Estates and the CLA in England and Wales have today published a new briefing paper urging government to make a range of commitments on labour arrangements.
The rural economy will be particularly affected by changes to policies on employing migrant workers from the EU and that uncertainty may affect investments and job creation. For example, the soft fruit industry is heavily reliant on migrant workers.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Workers from EU countries play an important role in Scotland’s rural industries. Farms and other rural businesses need to plan for the future and will want to know that after Brexit there will still be a flexible, skilled and secure workforce so they can continue to invest in their businesses and secure or create jobs. We are all acutely aware, as is the Scottish Government, that the improving the vibrancy of the rural economy is a priority.”
Scottish Land & Estates and the CLA are asking the Home Secretary to commit to establishing sector based schemes that will ensure opportunities for seasonal and skilled workers from both the UK and overseas if free movement of labour is removed.
David Johnstone said: “This should include the creation of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme post-Brexit enabling people to enter the UK for a specific job, for a set period of time without the right to remain afterwards. Similar schemes have worked well in the past in agriculture and will help farmers. Tourism is another important sector for our members and similar schemes will also be needed in such sectors.”
The UK’s previous seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS) began in 1945 and evolved until it was closed in 2013, following the removal of restrictions on freedom of movement on workers from Romania and Bulgaria.
In the new briefing paper, Scottish Land & Estates and the CLA are asking to make the following early commitments on labour arrangements:
- Confirm the status of EU migrant workers already resident in the UK
- Establish appropriate sector specific schemes that ensure availability of seasonal and skilled labour
- Ensure our position as a destination for the best to participate in research and development is maintained
- Develop an immigration policy that ensures that the supply of workers across the rural economy is sufficient to ensure businesses can invest and grow.
The full briefing can be found below.