Planting trial plots with spring barley, using specialised seed drill, Scotland, winter© FLPA/REX/Shutterstock

NFU Scotland has raised concerns over the Scottish Government’s plan to create a single minimum hourly rate for all agricultural workers, irrespective of age and duties.

In the rest of the UK the National Living Wage, at £7.50/hour is only paid to workers over the age of 25, which would mean employers north of the border could face far higher wage bills.

The proposal is included in a Scottish Government consultation and the NFUS has warned that farmers may have to turn to contractors, rather than employing staff in the future.

NFUS chief executive Scott Walker said: “A single rate of pay for all Scottish agricultural workers will mean that for those under the age of 25, the minimum rate of pay in agriculture will be significantly higher than in any other industry.

See also: Scottish grower profits could be eliminated by wage rise

Higher costs

“This commitment to a higher single rate of pay for the under-25s means we will be operating from a higher cost base than elsewhere in the UK.” 

Mr Walker added: “For all, it is important that new workers continue to be brought into the industry and are trained to do the increasingly complex jobs required on farms. 

“Unfortunately, for many farms, falling incomes mean that keeping a staff member in full time employment can be difficult.”

In the future farms may instead have to rely on contractors at key times of the year to supplement family labour, he said. 

Mr Walker called on processors and other buyers to recognise the potentially higher costs involved in producing Scottish food.

“The higher cost must be matched by a commitment from processors and retailers not to simply buy on price but to support and source Scottish farm produce,” Mr Walker said.

He also encouraged all farm employers to have their say in the consultation, which closes on 31 December.

 “The opportunity now exists to respond to these proposals and I encourage all farms in Scotland to write to the Wages Board and tell them what impact the Wages Order changes would have on their business,” Mr Walker said.

Have your say on the Scottish wage proposals

Closing date 31 December 2017

Email representations should be sent to the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board at: SAWB@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Or by post to:

SAWB, The Scottish Government, D Spur, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, EDINBURGH EH11 3XD

SAWB will meet again on 17 January 2018 to consider any written representations received to the proposed increases.