Brexit - Scottish minister warned about food sector labour shortages.

Brexit - Scottish minister warned about food sector labour shortages.

A Scottish government minister has heard concerns about post-Brexit labour availability during a visit to a meat processing plant. 

During a tour of AK Stoddart's processing facility in Broxburn, Scotland, by Mike Russell, minister for UK negotiations on Scotland's place in Europe, the importance of non-UK labour to the business was stressed.

During the visit, organised by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), the minister met Grant Moir, managing director of AK Stoddart's, who raised concerns over future staff shortages and about the ability to continue to employ EU-nationals post Brexit, Britain's departure from the European Union.

Moir said: "Scotland has to compete with the rest of Europe in its bid to attract people into the workplace. Following the initial Brexit announcement this has become an increasingly challenging task for many Scottish food and drink businesses,

"At Stoddart's we depend on a large number of non-UK EU nationals to make up our workforce, without whom we would be unable to run our business at its current level. One third of our processing staff are non-UK EU nationals who are highly skilled in meat processing.

"Any restriction of freedom movement as a result of the Brexit negotiations will in my opinion be hugely detrimental to both our business and the wider Scottish economy.

"Recruitment and retention of our EU National workers will remain our single biggest business challenge for the immediate future."

The visit followed the recent publication of Migrant Labour and the Scottish Red Meat Sector, one of a number of Brexit briefing papers published by QMS. This publication included the results of a survey undertaken by the Scottish Meat Wholesalers Association which found that 52% of the unskilled workforce, 44% of the skilled workforce and 16% of supervisory and management staff are non-UK nationals. 

QMS chief executive Alan Clarke, said: "Having access to a pool of skilled labour is essential to ensure the Scottish red meat sector can have sustainable growth."