HELLO and welcome to the AM Business Briefing on Friday, August 27, as the scale of potential food shortages becomes apparent with Scottish business leaders writing to the UK and Scottish Governments calling for urgent action.

Scottish food producers and suppliers have signed a joint letter saying that Brexit and the pandemic have accelerated existing pressures on labour availability.

The business leaders said: "We have now reached crisis point putting the growth, viability and security of many Scottish businesses in jeopardy, with knock on impacts for consumers.

"We need action now to save Christmas.

"We ask and advise that the UK Government and Scottish Government play their own parts to support recruitment in the sector."

David Thomson, FDF Scotland, James Withers, Scotland Food & Drink, Scott Walker, NFUS, Alasdair Smith, Scottish Bakers, Peter Cook, Opportunity North East, Martin Morgan, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Jimmy Buchan, Scottish Seafood Alliance. and Colin Smith, Scottish Wholesale Association have signed the letter.

They wrote: "FDF Scotland and our industry partners in the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and beyond have consulted widely with Scottish businesses on the issues.

"In our recent survey of 88 Scottish businesses 93% of them currently had job vacancies, 90% of them described their job vacancies as hard to fill, and 97% of them felt that they would struggle to fill vacancies in the future.

"The reported jobs that were hard to fill cover all parts of the business and all wage ranges, with particularly difficult areas being in engineering and production operation. The geography affected covers the whole of Scotland."

They said all conventional avenues have been exhausted.

"Businesses are looking at all the options they have at their disposal to retain and recruit.

"It’s not working, and we are now rapidly approaching a crisis.

"It is now clear that many people who would traditionally have been attracted to work in the food industry from abroad can no longer do so. Online and delivery companies have also recruited workers during the pandemic and there is no sign of people returning to the industry."

They call on the UK Government to introduce a 12 month covid recovery visa for the food and drink supply chain to deal with immediate pressures on the industry and allow employers to expand recruitment to EU and other overseas workers, for a commission an urgent review by the Migration Advisory Committee of the needs of the food and drink sector, and to waive the fees to employment visas for the food and drink supply chain until 2022.

They call on the Scottish Government to ensure support for automation is embedded in Scottish Government funding programmes where it supports productivity and the development of higher quality jobs

"Work with the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership to continue to promote the industry as a great career destination, and to provide opportunities through apprenticeships and other schemes."

Graeme Roy: What do we mean by levelling up?

Spurred by changes in electoral geography at the 2019 General Election, ‘levelling-up’ has become a key policy priority of the Westminster Government.

Across a range of indicators, UK regional economic inequality is amongst the highest of any high-income economy. It’s an important issue in Scotland too. 

Social enterprise awarded £150,000 for apprentice drive

A COMPANY that claims to be Scotland’s first ethical printing and photocopying social enterprise has been awarded £100,000 from Social Investment Scotland (SIS) and more than £50,000 from the Scottish Government’s Adapt & Thrive programme to boost its business and recruit five new apprentices.

Social Print and Copy’s apprentice programme, aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds, has been developed to help young people kickstart their career and learn key technical skills in a social enterprise created with sustainability and lasting change at the heart of the business.

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