Conservative MP for Angus Kirstene Hair has pledged to protect the interests of the region’s soft fruit growers as the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union. Angus grows around 30% of Scotland’s soft fruits and local industry figures have spoken of their fears surrounding the availability of seasonal workers over the next several years. Ms Hair has pressed Michael Gove, the secretary for environment, food and rural affairs, for assurances that a supply of migrant workers will not be affected by Brexit. And there was a determination that enough permits will be granted to guarantee the security of next year's harvest. She took constituent James Porter, the chairman of NFU Scotland and proprietor of Angus Soft Fruits, to meet Mr Gove.
The Angus MP said: “Within two months of being elected in May, I toured all the large fruit farms in Angus to make sure the government is doing all it can to keep our agriculture businesses thriving. “There must be a mechanism to allow access for workers next year, as a matter of priority, and to ensure workers will still be able to come to Scotland post-Brexit.
“I have been leading discussions with NFU Scotland and other organisations including East of Scotland Growers, British Summer Fruits and Angus Growers. “Our discussion with Michael Gove was very productive and he appreciates the urgency of the situation. “I have also spoken with the Prime Minister on the subject, as a matter of the highest priority.” Mr Porter says around 20,000 migrant permits for workers from outside the EU will be needed to take in the 2018 crop of fruit and vegetables. He added: “For a major soft fruit area like Angus, the importance of seasonal workers cannot be underestimated. “There are only 1,400 long-term unemployed in Angus, yet Angus Soft Fruits needs a seasonal workforce of 4,000 to pick crops.”