A North East MP has called for action from the Scottish Government to address problems in the farming sector caused by the national wage-setting body.
Angus MP Kirstene Hair has written to Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing regarding the status of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).
Farmers in the constituency have expressed concern that the minimum wage set by the AWB – higher than the average for other sectors – is preventing young people from gaining the experience they need in the industry.
The National Farmers Union Scotland has campaigned for several years on the issue and has argued that there is no need for a separate minimum wage for farmers. The AWB has been disbanded in the rest of the UK, leaving Scottish farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
Ms Hair said:
“This is an important issue for my constituency. I have been approached by farmers who feel that, due to the higher wages required by the AWB, they feel it is a better use of their limited resources to employ more experienced workers.
“That is understandable, but it means that younger farmers who are still learning are missing out.
“That could then mean that some are missing out on an opportunity to get into farming at a time when we need to do all we can to encourage new entrants. The average age of farmers is 58.
“We now have a situation where the wage level imposed by the AWB is higher than that required by any other business paying the national minimum wage.
“That cannot be right, and it needs to be addressed urgently. I hope that the Cabinet Secretary will take this seriously and respond positively in due course.”