Highlights reserved issues to the UK Government
Under this theme, the Taskforce considered that there were a number of critical issues that would continue to require action to be taken by the UK Government because it holds many of the levers. This includes, in particular, measures to address the rising costs and energy price increases. Alongside, fuel, transport, labour, materials, energy is another inflationary pressure, but one with the potential to impact significantly if the costs increase significantly.
Another critical issue under this theme was the need for the UK Government to address immigration rules in relation to particular key sector labour and skills shortages. From a Scotland specific perspective, Scotland Food and Drink reported, in January 2022, that Scotland’s food manufacturing industries have a shortfall of at least 10,000 workers. Additionally, while reported at a UK geography level, a House of Commons piece published late March 2022 and a referenced report (commissioned by industry and completed by Grant Thornton UK LLP) shared an estimate of the UK food and drink sector having potentially in excess of 500,000 job vacancies – equivalent to a 12.5%, which it described as a “chronic” labour shortage. The same publications provide some more specific sector (i.e. crop picking/harvesting, meat production and processing, logistics, etc.) estimates.
There was a series of further considerations by the Taskforce under this theme but these were considered to be outside the scope of the Taskforce.
The recommendations of the Taskforce, under this theme, were short-term but with a longer-term focus: that the Scottish Government should write further to the UK Government to press it again to consider a range of critical issues to support the sector. These include (while not an exhaustive list) writing to the UK Government to ask it to:
- address critical infrastructure issues, CO2 and fertiliser, for example;
- make emergency changes to the UK immigration system to combat acute post-Brexit skills shortages exacerbated by the pandemic;
- address our calls for further action on the soaring price of fuel and energy; and to
- use the most effective tax levers to help alleviate the increased burden households are facing.
The Taskforce discussed a range of other matters linked to supply chains and overall food security. It agreed that these were not within scope as these were a) legacy issues (and so broader than the Taskforce’s Terms of Reference) b) already in hand or being addressed elsewhere or c) would not lead to any new benefits.
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