The farmers’ union claims the latest Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report has fallen short on delivering for Scotland’s food and farming sectors.
NFU Scotland (NFUS) has pledged to continue to lobby the UK Government to ensure a fully-operational Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) is in place when the current pilot comes to an end in January 2021.
The union’s parliamentary affairs manager, Clare Slipper, said the report, which was published yesterday, signified some progress on previous proposals, and welcomed MAC’s proposed move away from an arbitrary wage threshold of £30,000, as she said it would not have applied to most agri-food jobs.
Ms Slipper added MAC’s “fixation” on academic skills was also problematic for the sector, because while the vast majority of food and farming jobs required technical and manual skills, they didn’t necessarily need academic qualifications.
“In addition, setting an arbitrary definition of ‘skills’ also fails to account for the skills that an employee will accrue whilst in a post – to operate machinery, or undertake skilled husbandry of crops and animals,” she said.
“Indeed, in some sectors, specifically dairy, there is a concentrated effort to link these on-farm skills to professional qualifications, apprenticeships and diplomas.
“This good progress will be lost if the new immigration system effectively cuts off pathways for individuals filling these roles to work in Scotland in a permanent capacity.”
Ms Slipper insisted a new SAWS should offer permits to 70,000 workers from outside the UK for up to nine months.
MAC is an advisory body to the UK Government but the Home Office will make the final proposals on migration rules.