The National Farmers Union (NFU) and NFU Scotland have criticised the Government’s new immigration policy which will see the introduction of a points based system starting from 2021.
The new policy will require EU and non-EU citizens to amass 70 points to be able to apply for a visa, with the requirements ranging from having a job offer that is at a “required skill level” (20 points), to being able to speak English to a certain level (10 points).
NFU president, Minette Batters, said: “As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, British food and farming is at the very core of our economy and any immigration policy must deliver for its needs.
“We have said repeatedly that for farm businesses it is about having the full range of skills needed – from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets – if we are to continue to deliver high quality, affordable food for the public. Failure to provide an entry route for these jobs will severely impact the farming sector.
“There are several issues within this proposed policy that need addressing…”
“Automation will have a vital role to play and we fully support investment in this area, but it is not yet a viable option to replace the number of people we need and farmers will need a practical solution in the meantime. There are also some jobs that simply cannot be replaced by technology.
“There are several issues within this proposed policy that need addressing, not least the incredibly short timeframe given for businesses to prepare, and we will be contributing to any consultation to ensure the views of Britain’s farmers are heard.”
A statement from NFU Scotland highlighted the unions disapproval of the policy. “Scotland’s food and farming industries will be put at risk by the UK Government’s proposals for migration and the introduction of a points-based system (PBS).
“The Union believes that the proposals will fail to provide enough options for seasonal and permanent non-UK workers to come and work in Scotland’s vibrant food and farming sectors, undermining its contribution to the Scottish and UK economies.
“While, under the UK Government proposals, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) will be expanded to 10,000 places, that still falls woefully short of the 70,000 seasonal workers required by farms across the UK.”
“…it is a deep disappointment that the UK Government has ignored recommendations from the UK farming industry…”
President of NFU Scotland, Andrew McCornick, said: “NFU Scotland has always maintained that a UK-wide approach to immigration would be preferable. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the UK Government has disregarded the strong and consistent evidence of NFU Scotland and other businesses in the UK food and drink supply chain about the type of immigration system we need to ensure productivity and output.
“The proposals published will not provide sufficient options for non-UK workers to come and work in rural Scotland. As such, Scotland-specific work permits in a UK system should be considered as a means to offer businesses in Scotland flexible tools to attract and retain manual skilled individuals within our labour market where automation and recruitment of domestic workers are not available nor viable options.
“Whilst a continued scheme for seasonal agricultural workers is welcome, it is a deep disappointment that the UK Government has ignored recommendations from the UK farming industry preferring to believe that an increased allowance of 10,000 will satisfy seasonal needs across the UK. Farming unions across the UK have long maintained that approximately 70,000 seasonal visas are needed after the end of free movement to ensure vacancies in the likes of soft fruit, vegetable and ornamental sectors are filled.”