Scottish food and drink industry leaders have written to Home Secretary James Cleverly warning of the dangers of his "proposals to reduce net migration to the UK by increasing salary thresholds for skilled workers" alongside other planned measures.

The letter comes from Iain Baxter, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink. It is also signed by National Farmers Union of Scotland chief executive John Davidson, chief executive of Quality Meat Scotland Sarah Millar, Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott, chief executive of Seafood Scotland Donna Fordyce, and Tim Bailey, chief executive of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society.

They tell Mr Cleverly: “Frankly, we could not do what we do without our overseas workers, and messages about wanting to reduce legal migration will have a negative impact on talented people living here already or living overseas looking for meaningful work. We are proud to be a major employer, a major contributor to exports, and, in many ways, the engine for economic growth in Scotland, as well as a major contributor to Scottish tourism, with food and drink among the top reasons for visitors coming here.

“Raising the skilled worker salary threshold to £38,700 will make the new minimum level higher than many of the vacant roles across the industry. This and the other changes planned will make it harder for businesses to recruit from overseas and for workers who might have considered applying. The impact will be worsened labour shortages, reduced profitability, higher prices and disruptions along the supply chain.”

The Scottish food and drink industry leaders note that “labour shortages are already reducing productivity and driving up operational costs, which increases food prices for consumers”, warning this could exacerbate the UK’s cost-of-living crisis.

They declare they are “deeply concerned” about Mr Cleverly’s proposals.

And they add: “We think this is the wrong approach and ignores the essential role that overseas workers play in our industry, and our society. It is of course important to manage immigration effectively, and to ensure that communities continue to have the infrastructure and public services they need.

“It is equally vital to protect our economy and businesses, which already lack a sufficient pool of labour, to ensure communities across the UK have access to affordable, high-quality food and drink and to protect an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people and generates £15 billion a year in Scotland alone.”