Brexit (Impact on Fish-processing Industry)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th September 2018.

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Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the fish-processing industry regarding the impact of Brexit on people from the European Union working in the sector. (S5O-02392)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

On 16 August, the First Minister convened a seafood sector round table on Brexit at which she met key stakeholders in the seafood industry to discuss the impacts of Brexit on their sectors, including the processing sector. One of the main concerns expressed related to future access to migrant labour, given the processing sector’s reliance on it; figures show that 58 per cent of the workforce are non-United Kingdom European Economic Area workers. That is why it is vital that any future trading arrangements for our seafood exports to the EU continue to be free of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the recommendation in the Migration Advisory Committee’s report that low-skilled workers should be encouraged to enter the UK on a youth mobility scheme could lead to all lower-paid workers being paid even less, and that it needs to be revised in order to protect those who work in vital industries such as the fish-processing industry in Aberdeen South and North Kincardine and elsewhere?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I agree with Maureen Watt on her issues with the MAC report, which is immensely disappointing. Yet again, MAC has refused even to acknowledge the existence of a separate Scottish economy and its separate labour force needs. It is not the first time that that has happened: I hope that it might be the last.

In the circumstances, some of MAC’s proposals are, frankly, risible; for example, it suggests that the solution that could be adopted to some of the labour shortages is to change the retiral age. The prospect of people who are ready to draw their old-age pension being sent out into the fields of Angus to pick fruit is ridiculous. The Migration Advisory Committee needs to take a jump to itself, as my old granny would have said. It needs to look at the situation in Scotland and to understand the Scottish labour market; then its contributions might be of some help.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

I echo the concerns of Maureen Watt and the cabinet secretary—labour is vital for the future success of those industries. Conservative members support the UK Government in getting the best deal for our fishermen, and we support the fishermen’s desire to take back control of our waters and catch a fairer share of the fish within our 200 miles. With that in mind, we need to ensure that Scotland has the capacity to process increased fish landings. There is a 34 per cent decline in fish processing in Scotland due to high business rates driving business down south. What will the Scottish Government do to encourage those businesses to remain in Scotland?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

There are none so blind as those who will not see. The facts of the matter were laid out by Maureen Watt. It would be useful if Peter Chapman listened to those facts and did not bring garbage and prejudice to the chamber, which is what we have just heard. The reality is that Brexit is bearing down on the processing sector in terms of an available labour force. Unless Peter Chapman recognises that, his contributions will be worthless.