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Brexit (Impact on Labour Supply)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

8. To ask the Scottish Government what impact it anticipates Brexit having on the supply of skilled labour. (S5O-03135)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

“No Deal Brexit—Economic Implications for Scotland”, which the Scottish Government published on 21 February, clearly demonstrated that Brexit would be catastrophic for jobs and investment in Scotland.

Brexit creates risks around the confidence and competitiveness of our businesses, their ability to plan and invest with certainty, and potential drastic increases in unemployment levels. When combined, those issues would cause significant disruption to the supply of skills to businesses in this country. That is why we are working with a range of partners, including Skills Development Scotland, to understand the potential impact of Brexit on regions and sectors.

We are preparing to respond as fully as possible to any resulting skills shortages and gaps, building on the strengths of our current skills system, should the United Kingdom Government decide to see through its plans for Brexit. However, as Mr Gibson will recognise, we cannot fully mitigate the unmitigatable.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for his comprehensive reply. It is the first time ever that I have heard the word “unmitigatable”.

Does the minister agree that the labour supply will be disproportionately impacted in the key sectors of the economy in which European Union nationals form a significant part of the workforce? Will he outline which sectors are most likely to be adversely affected, and what the resulting effect will be on economic growth?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

There are a number of sectors that will be particularly affected. For example, agriculture, hospitality, care services and the national health service all stand to be adversely hit. If we consider the role of agriculture in Scotland and the massive success story of our food and drink sector, we can see that it is self-evident how damaging Brexit will be in that key growth area.

By way of a specific, detailed illustration, my constituency is home to a soft-fruit industry that turns over more than £50 million annually. It requires access to more than 4,000 seasonal migrant workers to pick and pack its products and, even before Brexit kicks in, it is already finding difficulty in accessing that workforce.

Mr Gibson is absolutely right to highlight the threat that is posed to the Scottish economy by Brexit.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio question time.

I see that some members who are to take part in the next debate are not present. Please remember that business just follows on and if we gain time in one session, we have more time for the next. I will start the next debate, notwithstanding that all the relevant members are not yet present in the chamber.