Seasonal Workers in Scottish Agriculture

migrant, workers, EU

Scotland’s agricultural sector relies heavily on seasonal non-UK workers, particularly from central and eastern Europe, to meet its labour demand. However, there is a lack of detailed information about the actual numbers of migrant workers working in Scotland and their living and working conditions. 

SRUC has been commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake research to improve our understanding of the labour market in Scottish agriculture in summer 2017.

Labour conditions and wage rates are key concerns for the Scottish Government, particularly in the context of the rising National Living Wage, but the issue of migrant workers has taken on new and greater significance following the UK’s decision in June 2016 to leave the EU.

This research project includes a number of different phases, the first of which entails survey work with farmers who directly employ seasonal workers on their farms, and with labour providers who supply labour to the agricultural sector in Scotland.

The survey aimed at farm businesses can be found here

The survey for labour providers can be found here

The survey intended for seasonal workers (including different languages) can be found here

An introductory evidence review on seasonal workers in Scotland and the UK can be found here

Future phases of this project will include:

  • Survey work with non-seasonal agricultural farm workers in Scotland to gather their perspectives on the working conditions of seasonal workers. 
  • Survey work and in-depth interviews with seasonal agricultural workers themselves to understand the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors in their decision to come to Scotland, their migration pathways between different countries, regions and individual farms, their living conditions, and their future aspirations.

Several external organisations have voiced support for this project. James Porter, Chairman of NFU Scotland’s Specialist Crops Committee, has said: “Access to labour is vital for Scottish agriculture, with sectors such as soft fruit and field vegetables being completely dependent on non-UK harvest workers.  We encourage all growers to participate in this survey, to provide the hard facts that will back up NFU Scotland’s message on the importance of the availability of workers post Brexit.”

Echoing this sentiment, David Johnstone, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: "We are living in unprecedented times with Scottish agriculture facing some challenging years ahead. As we look to the future it will be vital that the Scottish Government has access to the most up-to-date information so that it can make informed policy decisions. Scottish Land & Estates would encourage participation in this survey so that we can make the right choices and secure the best future for Scottish agriculture”

You can also find updates on this project via:

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