Salmon Scotland has called on Tory candidates to introduce changes to address labor shortage problems in the sector, as well as showing fears about a potential ‘trade war’ with the EU. In letters addressed to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak ahead of tomorrow’s Perth hustings, the trade body for Scottish salmon calls on the next Prime Minister to embrace a “more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK” and a “serious, pragmatic approach” to negotiations with the EU.[tds_partial_locker tds_locker_id=”24891″]
Labor shortage problems after Brexit
In addition to being the UK’s biggest food export, farm-raised Scottish salmon generates 12,000 jobs directly employing 2,500 people in Scotland, supporting over 3,600 suppliers, with a further 10,000 jobs dependent on it. Moreover, many of these jobs are in rural and isolated areas of the country, although not only there. “Our businesses are vital to the economic performance of the UK – not only in economically fragile coastal and rural areas, but across the length and breadth of the country in processing, engineering, science and technology industries”, says Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland.
In 2021, Scottish salmon exports rebounded to near record numbers, rising to £614 million – up 36% compared to 2020 and only slightly below the £618 million recorded in 2019. Exports were shipped to 52 different markets last year and, of these, growth was recorded in 10 of the top 20. However, despite growing global demand for salmon, the workforce has shrunk in recent years as many key workers have returned to Eastern Europe following Brexit.
“Labour shortages in our processing businesses are acute”, assures Salmon Scotland, and therefore ask the next Prime Minister to embrace a “more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK”. According to the trade body for Scottish salmon, that should include a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level, and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people coming here to work.
A ‘trade war’ must be avoided
But labor shortages are not the only concern of the Scottish salmon sector. Salmon Scotland is also calling for a “serious, pragmatic approach” to negotiations with the EU so as to avoid a so-called ‘trade war’. The organization calls on Tory candidates to put a “clear focus on the nation’s export businesses who depend on a positive, professional relationship with France and the other countries of the EU”.
“No change to the current UK Government approach and the attitude in particular of the Home Office is a clear threat to business competitiveness against our main international competitors”, claims Travish Scott in letters sent to Liz Truss and Rish Sunak. Salmon Scotland CEO goes on to say that “maintaining and enhancing our export position to the EU and wider European markets is of considerable importance to our businesses” and adds that “any escalation of EU-UK negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol is high on our industry risk register”. Finally,he says that a “continuous access to our main markets in Europe is vital for the UK’s food and drink export success story”.
This is not the first time Salmon Scotland has urged the UK Government to find a political solution, having already done so following the EU Commission’s decision to take legal action against the UK for breaching important parts of the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland. “No UK export business needs a trade war or even any such suggestion between the UK and the EU”, they claim.