Scots farmers Union warns of uncertain future after Brexit

By Róisín Kilroy

As a potential no deal Brexit looms, National Farming Union Scotland has reached out to government officials, detailing their concerns about the future of Scottish farming in post-EU Britain.

The measures include more support for Scottish farmers and financing for rural businesses and economy so that they can flourish outside of an EU market.

A statement released by the Union on December 5th, stated that the organisation has “asked for government support to be invested in schemes in local areas that will assist food producers in cutting waste and contributing to the circular rural economy.”

This comes after months of broken negotiation between Westminster and the EU, leaving little clarification for farmers in the UK about what will happen in the critical months ahead.

Currently, Scotland trades less with the EU than other farming communities in the rest of the UK. But Scottish farmed produce makes up a profitable margin within the UK.

A report by the Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board, highlighted the impact of Scottish trading in 2016-17, and the potential impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the farming economy.

exports total

The main trades of potatoes, livestock and soft fruit, will all be directly impacted by Scotland being taken out of the EU.

Due to Scotland’s distance from key markets and lower total income for farming per hectare than Northern Ireland and England, it places the country’s agricultural trade in an uncertain future.

income farming per hec

key food and drink exports countries

The Scottish soft fruit sector, which currently accounts for £115 million, could be disrupted, as it relies heavily on EU migrant workers, who may or may not be permitted to work on farms.

In 2015, 75% of migrant workers were in Perth, Angus and Kinross, regions that are vital for fruit and vegetable production.

It is estimated that 70% of companies involved with Scotch Whisky production forecast that they will face skill shortages post-Brexit, mainly in areas of engineering and management.

The UK government recently outlined that they would permit about 2,500 migrant workers to work in the food and drink agriculture across the whole of the UK.  However, it is estimated that Scotland alone needs that amount just to operate it’s soft fruit farms.

Scottish potato


Scotch Whisky, Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI are all currently protected brands, meaning that they can only be farmed and produced in Scotland, using Scottish resources, although Brexit has the potential to change this, making Whisky particularly vulnerable.

whisky exports

Athole Murray Flemming, Editor of Farming Scotland Magazine stated that: “25% of all food and drink exports from the UK is Scotch Whiskey. A world trade agreement with America, could see the US beginning to make whisky and declare it to be Scotch. From a Scottish perspective this is very dangerous. Scottish Whiskey brings people to Scotland on holidays, it has more diversity than some wines.”

key actual food

Currently, 75% of Scottish land is deemed poor quality and nonviable for farming, something that has been strongly supported by the EU, but following Brexit, there are worries that Scotland’s vulnerable and rough terrain may be forgotten about by the UK Government.

Information for graphs taken from: