Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today branded the UK Government "deluded" as it emerged just 2,500 places for agricultural workers are available in their pilot immigration program which has now officially opened.
The scheme allows for workers from outside the EU to work in the UK for up to six months, after which they have to go back to their country of origin. The pilot scheme is set to run for 24 months and the UK Government have allocated 2,500 places for workers during that period. The NFU estimate that 80,000 people are needed each year to harvest crops across Britain.
The North East Fife MSP commented:
“The UK Government are deluded if they think this paltry number will address the massive shortage of staff caused by Brexit.
"Fife’s fruit and veg farms are struggling already because of Brexit and the resultant hit on the value of the pound.
"2,500 workers is far short of what is required to even stand still and is even further short of what this successful industry needs to grow. If the NFU says we need 80,000 a year and that demand will continue to rise, this sticking plaster plan is barely a drop in the ocean, it’s an insult to the industry and a pretence that ministers are listening.
"The UK Government needs to think again if they are not going to compound the problems created by Brexit.”