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Politics: Engagement is crucial in dealing with labour shortages

By David Porter

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Last week saw the publication of the final report from the Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce, which I was honoured to chair.

Contrary to some reports, despite the conclusion of that time-limited task force, engagement with the seafood and aquaculture industries has continued in earnest.

Following the resolution of many short-term export issues early in the year, this task force was created to address those other issues which, although would take longer to deliver, would nevertheless require action to be taken in the short term by governments in London and Edinburgh and by the industry itself.

It was this involvement of key industry stakeholders which really did – and to this day continues to – help define solutions and take action to deliver them.

As part of this ongoing engagement, I was also pleased to chair the inaugural meeting of the Scottish Seafood Industry Action Group last week.

This group is attended by similar participants as the task force - including Scottish Government Ministers and officials, alongside those of the UK Government.

Co-working between Governments, for the good of a key food production industry in Scotland, has also been key to the successes delivered thus far.

I look forward to applying a similar approach to issues which exist in the wider food and drink production sector – particularly in relation to access to labour.

I was copied on a letter written to both of Scotland’s Governments by representatives of the Scottish food and drink industry – including the National Farmers Union for Scotland.

The industry is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure support for automation is embedded in devolved funding programmes, working 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 skills development schemes.

For the UK Government’s part, I am engaging heavily with the Department for Work and Pensions and Home Office/Immigration ministers and officials to address accessing labour for those occupations for which there are shortages.

This is precisely what the new points-based immigration system, and associated shortage occupation lists are designed to facilitate and I look forward to engaging with the industry further on this.

However, we also need to be mindful of the impact on the labour market of the upcoming ending of furlough support as the whole economy continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

I always enjoy visiting the various Men’s Sheds around Banff and Buchan and Turriff’s was no different.

Men’s sheds give people the opportunity to socialise and use their skills – developed through work or perhaps as a hobby – to work on local community support and projects.

Originating from an idea first implemented in Australia for Vietnam war veterans, there are several ‘Men’s Sheds’ flourishing around the north-east, including Aberchirder who were recently recognised with the Queens Award for Voluntary Service.

Turriff Men’s Shed is keen to hear from local men (and women) who would be interested in joining.

Conner in action in the final of the 100m breaststroke in Tokyo
Conner in action in the final of the 100m breaststroke in Tokyo

Last week also saw the end of the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, with Team GB ending in second place on the medals board!

Congratulations to Turriff swimmer, Conner Morrison, who came 2nd in his qualifying heat for 100m Breaststroke and missed out on medals in the final by only a couple of seconds.

Well done to Conner and the whole team!

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