Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt says one of his first tasks as prime minister would be to develop an immigration system that recognises the “distinct needs” of Scottish farming.
Mr Hunt has turned down an invitation to meet NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick during his hustings visit to Scotland tomorrow, but in a letter to the union chief he says the immigration system should maintain access to permanent and seasonal workers.
His letter states: “I have been clear that we need a UK-wide immigration system that recognises the distinct needs of Scottish agriculture, and I have consistently backed the removal of the £30,000 salary threshold.”
Mr Hunt adds he will work with local MPs to “develop a flexible system that works for Scotland without erecting any barriers within the United Kingdom that could damage our internal market or create unnecessary difficulties for business.”
Mr McCornick said he wanted to deliver his message to the leadership hopefuls face-to-face so he could set out what Scottish farming expects from the next prime minister, and hammer home the need to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
In his letter, Mr Hunt said he was under no illusions that the lack of a deal would be highly damaging for farmers, and repeated his pledge from earlier in the week to introduce a £6 billion relief programme for the fishing and farming sectors if the UK crashes out of Europe.
He adds: “Where they have to change their business model, I will guarantee they get the support they need to do so.”
Mr Hunt says he will pursue deals that deliver “as free and frictionless trade for farmers and land managers as possible” and says he can guarantee he will never do anything to threaten Scotland’s biggest export market, which is the rest of the United Kingdom.