Seasonal Workers Survey Identifies Labour Shortage Fears

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Monday February 12 2018

Scotland's potato, fruit and vegetable sectors are amongst the most pioneering and dynamic - with new technology and innovation offering exciting new opportunities to extend the season and expand the crop, in the face of the somewhat adverse growing conditions in Scotland.

And it shows – with the seed potato sector alone delivering c.£100 million to the Scottish economy, and the fruit and vegetable sector growing to almost £300 million last year.

However, a recent survey undertaken by NFU Scotland has suggested that these key sectors of Scottish agriculture are under threat due to labour shortages in the face of unfavourable exchange rates and changing economies in the EU.

The UK’s impending exit from the European Union is compounding these issues, with uncertainty abound as to the availability of work permits for non-UK nationals as the UK Government seeks to tighten immigration controls after Brexit.


NFU Scotland’s Seasonal Workers Survey has found:

100% respondents stated that non-UK seasonal workers were important to their business.

In 2016 and 2017, 50% respondents employed 20 or less non-UK staff.

16% respondents employed more than 200 non-UK staff both years.

65% respondents reported that recruiting non-UK workers was more challenging in 2017 than in 2016.

74% anticipate new and increased challenges in recruiting non-UK workers in 2018.

100% of those who completed the survey were ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the impact labour shortages would have on their business in 2018 and beyond.

43% respondents reported difficulty in retaining workers, issues with returning workers, challenges with worker productivity, and an increase in overtime hours as a result of a more challenging recruitment environment in 2017.

48% respondents had difficulty harvesting in 2017 due to labour shortages.

When asked what business decisions might have to be taken without access to sufficient seasonal labour:

58% of respondents said they were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to downsize their business

42% said they would cease current activity

52% said they would automate production

61% said they would increase wages to attract staff

55% said they would increase internal skills and development.


NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said:

“With the 2018 season almost upon us, it is vital a solution is found to attract non-UK workers to Scotland to undertake agricultural seasonal work for up to ten months, which has in-built flexibility to allow workers to move from farm-to-farm as harvests complete.

“This is an immediate issue, but what is also becoming of increasing concern is how Scotland’s agricultural and food processing sectors will continue to employ and retain non-UK workers for permanent positions up and down the supply chain after Brexit.

“Next week, NFU Scotland will publish a report ahead of meetings with the UK Government’s Home Office and Members of Parliament.

“The report will identify the pressure points for future labour requirements throughout the Scottish agriculture and food processing sector and it will outline proposals for a new Agricultural Labour Scheme which NFU Scotland believes could satisfy seasonal and permanent, on-farm and off-farm labour needs.”



More From Highland Times

Latest News Live

Kate Forbes MSP Backs Efforts to Tackle Road-Side Litter

Ahead of the peak summer tourist season, Kate Forbes…

Read More ›

Finnie Questions Minister on Air Traffic Proposals

John Finnie MSP (pictured), Scottish Greens Transport…

Read More ›

View all


Ducati Lead Honda and Yamaha on The Opening Day in…

Pictured: New deal, same Dovi: the Italian went top…

Read More ›

NOSCA Cricket Results

The Inverness derby was the feature game in the North…

Read More ›

View all

Clip Of The Day

Trailer Trash Stage Line Up for Bella 2018

Howdy pardner! Belladrum’s Trailer Trash stage which…

Read More ›

Sutherland Midwife Named Midwife of The Year

An NHS Highland midwife has been named midwife of the…

Read More ›

Newsletter Signup

Register today and can keep upto date with latest news at Highland Times 24/7