Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has announced that the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) will continue to protect the rights of low-paid farm workers in Scotland.

The decision follows a review and public consultation on the future of the body, which has the power to set minimum pay rates, holiday entitlements and certain other conditions of service for agricultural workers in Scotland. Orders made by the Board have the force of law.

New Scottish Government analysis published on Tuesday found evidence that scrapping the Board would drive down wages, particularly for young apprentices and migrant workers.

It also found no evidence that abolishing the board would help create more jobs in farming. On the contrary, agricultural job growth in Scotland has outpaced that of England where the wages board there was abolished in 2013 leading to a fall in wages for the lowest-paid agricultural workers.

The Rural Affairs Secretary said: "Workers must be paid a fair wage for the job they do. As well as being the right thing to do it is important in attracting people into the industry - which is vital for the future of Scottish Agriculture.

"I have considered carefully the results of this review and responses to our consultation in which a variety of views were expressed.

"The evidence in favour of retaining the SAWB is compelling. It continues to perform an important role in protecting the rights of farm workers - many of whom are paid low wages - which in turn underpins the rural economy.

"That is why I have decided to retain the SAWB, with the intention of conducting a further review in five years' time."

Scott Walker, chief executive of NFU Scotland - which has campaigned for the abolition of the board - commented: "The Scottish Government's decision to retain the agricultural wages board without any change to its functions or remit risks crop production moving out of Scotland. For labour intensive crops such as hand-picked fruit and vegetables this decision will have a huge impact on an industry that operates in a very competitive environment.

"With a National Minimum Wage, a new National Living Wage and rules governing working time why the Scottish Government has decided to retain the board when we have all these other rules in place simply cannot be understood by growers.

"Retailers and consumers simply won't pay for these additional costs and instead of creating jobs the risk is that there will be fewer farms and fewer farm workers in Scotland in the years to come."