Brexit and rural Scotland

EU migrant workforce is ‘essential’.

Access to EU migrant workforce is vital to rural Scotland’s continued success, stability and sustainability, according to Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.

People from elsewhere in the EU make up around 3% of those employed in the rural economy. Additionally, some 10,000 people are directly employed in Scotland’s food and drink growth sector – as well as thousands more in public services such as hospitals and schools in remote and rural communities.

While visiting Glenrath Farm in the Scottish Borders, where more than half the workforce are EU nationals, Mr Ewing said:

“This Government values the contribution of EU migrants to our economy and society. Retaining unhindered access to this reliable workforce is of particular importance, given the distinct demographic pressures we face, and is key to reducing potential future labour shortages.

“With 3% of our rural workforce dependent on EU nationals – many who have chosen to settle here permanently – it is clear any restrictions on access to EU workers would be significantly detrimental for the sector – potentially leading to reduced domestic produce in favour of imports.

“Retaining access to this talent pool via single market membership is essential to meet the needs of rural businesses and is a priority in safeguarding the continued success, stability and sustainability of our rural economy.”

Ian Campbell, Managing Director at Glenrath Farm said:

“Glenrath Farms Ltd would find it difficult to run their company without being able to employ Eastern European Labour. Over 52% of our workforce are from Eastern Europe. Since the Brexit vote in June 2016 we have had difficulty in retaining our Eastern European employees. Some of our employees feel that they are no longer welcome in the British community. Additionally the fall in the value of the Pound and an increase in the cost of living has made working in the UK a less attractive option. Fear of the unknown and the potential cost of obtaining work permits is preventing our staff from making the decision to stay in Scotland for the long term.”


Food and drink growth sector comprises agriculture, fishing, aquaculture, food and drink manufacturing.


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