Scottish farm and agri-food businesses have been asked to complete a survey detailing their permanent and seasonal staff needs, to add weight to industry calls for an urgent expansion of the current trial seasonal workers scheme.

NFU Scotland has been lobbying hard to secure continued and increased access to non-UK workers, both permanent and temporary, post-Brexit, and last week wrote to the Home Office Secretary of State Priti Patel, to stress the critical role that non-UK nationals play in filling the seasonal, temporary and permanent positions that deliver high-quality Scottish produce from field to fork. It also called for at least 80,000 SAWS permits to be made available.

The union noted that governments, MPs, MSPs, the Migration Advisory Committee, researchers and others regularly questioned the scale of the seasonal worker supply problem – which was why it has now launched this survey to generate some hard facts upon which to press its case.

To help that effort, farm-based and agri-food businesses are being asked to complete the short online survey by Monday September 23, by going to

There are two sections, one each for non-seasonal and seasonal workers (e.g those who come in the summer for harvest work). On seasonal workers, the union is also seeking employers opinion on the success or otherwise of the current pilot Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, while for permanent staff, there is a supplementary question to establish if non-UK workers have applied to the UK Government’s EU Settled Status Scheme.

Union president Andrew McCornick said: “We are absolutely convinced that without non-UK workers, many farm-based businesses and the agri-food supply chain will be unproductive and unable to maintain the provision of food to UK consumers. But we need facts and figures to back up our lobbying effort on this and I urge anyone affected to complete this short survey.

“There is complete reliance in the soft fruit and field vegetable sectors on a non-UK seasonal workforce," said Mr McCornick. "Whilst the SAWS Pilot scheme is certainly a step in the right direction, it will not provide nearly enough permits if shortages such as those experienced in 2017 and 2018 arise.

“Should the Home Office end free movement in the event of a no deal on October 3 then the Government must act with urgency now to ensure up to 80,000 seasonal permits are available for a non-UK workforce to undertake work next season.

“On permanent workers, the proposal for all permanent staff coming into the UK to be working in a job that pays upwards of £30,000 is unworkable within the Scottish context and sets an arbitrary threshold with no basis in the reality of employment patterns within Scottish agriculture or food and drink processing," he added.

“If the proposed immigration scheme is not amended to provide access to lower paid workers then the Shortage Occupation List must be expanded. Gaining facts through this survey will allow us to submit the strongest evidence for a differentiated proposal for workers in Scottish farming and agri-food.”