Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has strongly criticised the Tories' long overdue seasonal agricultural scheme which will only allow for an additional 2.500 workers across the whole of the UK when launched.
This despite the scale of the crisis facing Scottish soft fruit farmers being set out in a letter to Sajid Javid and Michael Gove from 30 rural SNP parliamentarians last month – noting examples of farms leaving tonnes of perfectly good crop to rot in fields at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to individual businesses.
The UK Government promised at the beginning of this year to address the labour shortage quickly, but the reported scheme has already been described as “too little, too late” by one Scottish grower, who added “there is something like 100,000 seasonal workers needed in horticulture – [2,500] is not a very big answer to the problem”.
Mr Stevenson said: “The Tories should hang their heads in shame. The industry has been calling for action since the Brexit vote over two years ago and what has been delivered is nothing short of insulting – a two-fingered salute to our soft fruit farmers.
“We’ve known for some time that all of Scotland’s fruit and vegetable growers have faced great challenges recruiting labour over the past year, and any government action should have been bold and swift to address the matter head on.
“We need to remember that what is on the line here is people’s livelihoods and jobs. This pitiful solution from the Tories is – in the words of fruit growers themselves – too little, too late.
“It’s time the Scottish Parliament was given the relevant powers over immigration to build a better system which actually works for Scotland and our rural economy.”