Thursday, 29 March 2018 06:15


The SNP has slammed the Tories for more broken promises to Scotland’s farmers – after Tory environment secretary Michael Gove failed to meet his own deadline to provide “complete clarity” on seasonal migrant labour, leading to renewed calls from the SNP for full powers over immigration to be devolved to Scotland. 

Michael Gove previously promised that issues over seasonal migrant labour would be sorted “by March”. However, with March now drawing to a close there is still no progress or clarity on the issue. Devolving powers over immigration would allow Scotland to develop a migration system that meets Scotland’s specific needs.
SNP MSP Graeme Dey has written to Michael Gove seeking answers over the impact that Brexit will have on farms in his Angus South constituency and across Scotland, particularly in soft fruit sector, and the fact many are already struggling to recruit seasonal migrant workers – before raising the matter at FMQs this afternoon, where the First Minister also expressed her concerns.

Commenting, Graeme Dey MSP said:
“Michael Gove and the UK Government’s lack of action on this important issue is disgraceful – if they don’t want to take the action our rural economy needs, then they must give us the power to do this ourselves.
“In my constituency of Angus South, soft fruit producers are seriously concerned about the UK government’s approach, or lack thereof, with a block on migrant workers potentially decimating the local economy. We’ve already seen many migrants choose not to work here since the vote nearly two years ago.
“I was glad to receive the support of the First Minister this afternoon – but it’s shameful that Ruth Davidson’s Tory party have still not delivered any clarity to farmers in my constituency and beyond on being able to access seasonal migrant workers after Brexit. And I note that view is shared by the Conservative chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee at Westminster.
“The Tories think they can do what they like to Scotland and get away with it.
“With just a year to go until we are dragged out the EU, the UK government must start taking farmers, and rural Scotland’s interests, seriously. We can’t be left to suffer as a result of Tory incompetence – we need powers over this to be devolved to Holyrood so we can build a system that works for us.”
At FMQs, Graeme Dey asked: 
“The First Minister will be aware of the importance of continuing access to seasonal migrant labour for soft fruit farmers in my constituency and wider Scottish agriculture. On February 4th, on a visit to Angus, Michael Gove promised farmers that there would be complete clarity around establishing a seasonal agriculture workers scheme by March. Here we are at the end of March, and nothing. Over the course of the last few days, we’ve had the Conservatives’ chair of Westminster’s rural affairs committee, accuse the immigration minister of ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ over this issue. Does the First Minister share my deep concern at the impact this disgraceful Tory action is having on Scottish agriculture?”
The First Minister responded:
“Well I think that this is the point the Tories look at their feet in the Chamber of course, or make lots of noise just to try to hide their deep embarrassment at what’s happening. I think the lesson of at least the last year, and perhaps Ruth Davidson might want to listen to this, we cannot trust a single word that Michael Gove says. And when his press releases are co-authored by Ruth Davidson, we clearly can’t trust a single word she says either.
“The fact of the matter is, the clarity which was promised by Michael Gove and others has not been delivered. We have no more clarity today than we did on referendum day, or than we did on the day Article 50 was triggered and that is disgraceful. It matters to people the length and breadth of this country, it matters to people in our rural economy, it matters to people in our services sector, it matters to people in our National Health Service. Instead of shouting abuse when people have the temerity to raise it in this chamber, the Tories in this chamber should be utterly ashamed of the position that their party have put this country into.” 

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