MOVES ARE afoot to offer Scotland's laid-off hospitality workers temporary jobs in the agricultural workforce, which is facing shortages of migrant labour.

Because of concerns about possible travel restrictions from Romania and Bulgaria, Angus Growers, NFUS and British Summer Fruits are right now working on sourcing a percentage of their workforce from within the UK, focussing particularly on the hospitality sector, where many people are about to be laid off.

Within days, NFUS plans to put up a web page with the contact details of member businesses needing workers, which will be promoted via the usual channels, but particularly to the hospitality sector, where legions of bar, kitchen and hotel staff are currently facing months without employment.

NFUS horticulture committee convenor James Porter, who farms near Carnoustie, said: "We are also trying to bring people over from Romania and Bulgaria early where possible in advance of anticipated movement restrictions, either in the worker’s home country or the UK.

"That route seems to be closing off very rapidly because of restrictions in the home countries. Growers are very conscious of the need to act responsibly, and the intention is for any worker coming in from abroad to self isolate as per government recommendations. Additionally, individual farms are restricting movement as much as practically possible," said Mr Porter. "The situation is very fluid, and plans may change in the coming days, but that is the position just now."

He added that the coronavirus crisis should come as a lesson to politicians who undervalue local food production and its workforce.

"This highlights the need for the UK government to commit immediately to a massively expanded seasonal worker scheme for 70,000 people next year," said Mr Porter. "The scheme should be very simple and low cost, with the ability for workers to register for a multi-annual (five year) pass for a nominal fee, which would allow them to continue to come over for six month periods in each year. If this crisis has showed us anything, it is the importance of security of food supply. Food supply chain workers should be treated as essential workers."