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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 5:29 pm, 11th February 2020

No, I do not think there is any reason why a UK-wide system could not address those issues. In fact, on the very issue of attracting talent to the fisheries sector, I have written to the Home Secretary to ask if we could develop similar processes to the one we have for seasonal agricultural labour for those who want to engage in the fisheries sector. There is absolutely no reason why we could not find a solution within the wider UK framework.

Just as Scotland has been failing to attract many immigrants to settle in Scotland while we were a member of the EU, so the number of seasonal workers willing to travel to Scotland to perform seasonal labour has been in decline for some years. Castleton Farm, for example, in my constituency—best jam, bar none, you will ever taste—saw a 15% shortage of seasonal labour last summer, leading to an estimated loss of over 100 tonnes of produce. And that was while we remained in the EU. In the same way as we must look at why Scotland is not attracting enough immigrants to stay in Scotland, we must also ask why Scottish farming is not attracting enough labour.

Part of the reason, of course, is that there is a labour shortage across Europe. Belgian, German and Irish farmers are increasingly sourcing their seasonal labour from outside the EU, chiefly from countries such as Ukraine. Non-EU seasonal labour is evidently part of the solution in Scotland, just as it is in agriculture in the remaining 27 states. Much of the decline in available European labour is down to the rapid and, of course, welcome progress that many eastern European countries have made in developing their own domestic economies.