Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:47 am on 21st June 2022.

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Mairi Spowage:

It is a massive problem. For all the businesses we talk to on a regular basis right now, it is their No. 1 issue. They are very concerned about their energy, fuel and input costs going up hugely, but their biggest problem is sourcing staff, particularly businesses in rural areas. It means that they do not open as much in many cases, particularly when we talk to hospitality businesses—they are not serving non-residents for dinner, or they are not opening on all days of the week. That seems to be quite common across the Scottish businesses we talk to on a regular basis, so it is an absolutely huge problem.

What is causing it? Well, for many years, there has been a movement—within Scotland at least, which I am more familiar with—from rural to more urban areas. In Scotland, there has been movement from most areas to Edinburgh and its surrounds, to be honest. That is projected to continue. If it does, that has some pretty huge consequences for rural areas. Obviously, housing plays into it as well, with young people in an area being attracted away, perhaps to study, but also for employment, and not being able to afford to buy houses in the local area. Certain parts, particularly the highlands, have huge issues with second-home ownership dominating particular settlements.

Those are all issues. With some of the pressure valves that we used to use a lot in rural areas in Scotland around EU labour, it is not quite the same situation any more, so we are not seeing the same supply of labour from that sort of source that we did in the past. That definitely seems to be causing issues, particularly in hospitality and social care.