Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Will Rennie is urging UK prime minister Boris Johnson to lift the cap on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme following frustrations at the limited staff supply being felt on Scottish farms.
Mr. Rennie paid a visit to East Grangemuir Farm in Anstruther, which grows strawberries alongside a crop operation. After completing a shift as a strawberry picker, Rennie knew first-hand the struggles facing the soft fruit sector and has suggested that the current SAWS limit should be quadrupled: “The team here at Easter Grangemuir do an incredible job getting the best of Fife’s summer produce to market whatever the weather. It’s hard physical work getting the fruit picked and packaged while it’s still ripe, and that’s made all the harder when there isn’t enough staff."
He noted that East Grangemuir requested 20 workers from the 2500 allowed by the UK-wide scheme, yet it received only 8.
“Fruit farming is one of Fife’s dominant industries but the need for seasonal workers is felt keenly in farms across the country,” Mr. Rennie continued. “Brexit and the dramatic fall in the value of the pound has had an equally dramatic impact on the number of workers from the rest of Europe travelling to work in the UK. This is making it more challenging for these farms to grow and thrive.”
“Ultimately if Brexit goes ahead there will be many more problems for farmers. It will damage exports, delay produce getting to market and deter even more workers. That’s one of the many reasons the Scottish Liberal Democrats want to put a stop to Brexit,” he concluded.