MIGRANT workers play an important role in Scotland’s red meat supply chain, and a recent survey conducted by Quality Meat Scotland has revealed a ‘significant dependence’ on overseas labour.

The survey on members of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, shows 52% of the unskilled workforce, 44% of the skilled workforce and 16% of supervisory and management staff to be non-UK nationals.

“There’s a reliance on migrant labour, particularly in livestock markets and abattoirs, but what is less spoken about is the number of foreign workers in the veterinary and meat hygiene sectors,” commented QMS chairman, Jim McLaren, at a media briefing held by the red meat levy board on Monday.

While the possible reduction in migrant labour following the Brexit process may have an impact on Scotland’s workforce, it is thought that much of the work will be unappealing for Scottish workers.

Mr McLaren pointed out that many meat processing plants, which account for around 70% of the Scottish cattle and pig kill as well as 90% of the Scottish sheep kill, are in areas with unemployment levels below the national average.

“There are opportunities for home-bred labour, but how much appetite they will have is hard to know,” added Mr McLaren.

The news came as QMS outlined plans for the year ahead, which sees the budgeted external spend for the coming year sit at £4.66m, down on the external spend of £5.02m in 2016/17.

Confirmed grant income, however, is currently lower at £407,000 for the coming year, compared to £890,000 last year, with this figure being expected to rise.