Tory plans to ease farming visa rules branded ‘paltry’ by the SNP

The SNP has warned a move by Liz Truss to relax immigration rules for farmers will not repair the “deep damage” agriculture caused to Scottish by the Tories.

Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Jim Fairlie spoke out amid reports that the Westminster government could ease its post-Brexit visa clampdown.

According to The Sunday Times, the UK’s new prime minister intends to raise the cap on seasonal agricultural workers, and make changes that will allow other key sectors to recruit more overseas staff.

An allocation of 30,000 visas for workers to come to the UK for up to six months was previously agreed amid a backlash over crippling labor shortages on Scottish Farms.

On Christmas Eve last year, the Tory government confirmed the scheme, which allows foreign workers to come to pick both edible and ornamental crops, would run until the end of 2024 and be extended to include the ornamentals sector.

Liz Truss, the prime minister.

Ministers said the number of visas available under the scheme – which is known as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) – would remain at 30,000 for 2022, with the potential to increase to 40,000.

From 2023 the scheme was supposed to begin to wind down.

‘Good for growth’

However, a senior government source told The Sunday Times: “There is a view within the Treasury that migration is good for growth.

“That is a view that appears to be shared by the PM and the chancellor.”

However, the proposed easing of immigration restrictions reportedly faces strong resistance from cabinet Brexiteers, including Suella Braverman, the home secretary, and Kemi Badenoch, the trade secretary.

Jim Fairlie.

Mr Fairlie, a sheep farmer, said: “While a move to address the significant labor shortages the Tories have created is vital, these changes would go nowhere near addressing the problems Scotland’s farmers have been repeatedly hit by damaging Westminster policies and the Tories reckless obsession with the hardest Brexit possible.

‘Paltry plans’

“For over 10 years, we have seen the brutal impact on people and industry from the Tories hostile environment policy when it comes to immigration – the damage they have done is deep and won’t be undone by these paltry plans of Liz Truss.

“What is needed is a reversal of each and every one of the cruel policies the Tories have introduced under their hostile environment banner – and if they aren’t willing to do it then it underlines how vital it is for Scotland to have the full powers of independence so that we can create a welcoming immigration system that works for our communities and where people are treated with dignity and respect.”

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[Tory plans to ease farming visa rules branded ‘paltry’ by the SNP]


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