The latest figures available from the agricultural returns show the numbers of persons employed as farm workers in these counties at December, 1952, as 14,404 compared with 14,377 at December, 1951. The figures for June, 1952, and June, 1951, were 14,120 and 14,875, respectively.
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he is satisfied, in view of these figures, that we are getting sufficient labour in the crofter counties? If he is not satisfied, will he look again at the existing legislation as it applies to these counties where there are special difficulties?
It is true that the decline in the crofter counties is greater than the decline in the rest of Scotland. It is 5·4 per cent. as against 1·8 per cent. That causes us concern. At the same time, we have no evidence of acute labour shortage, but we are watching the position carefully.
But my hon. Friend will be aware of the anxiety expressed by farmers about the difficulty in getting shepherds to live in out-of-the-way places, especially in the crofter counties?