John Ross Jr CEO attacks Secretary of State for Scotland over comments that he is only concerned over wage rises in new visas plans

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“Economic suicide”. Scottish Secretary criticised for playing down concerns to high-end salmon processor.

A war of words is afoot in Scotland between the CEO of a high-end salmon smoker and Scottish Secretary and Conservative MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Alister Jack.

I make no apology
Last week, supporting the Home Office’s immigration plans on visas, Jack ruffled the industry’s feathers when he said he had visited a plant in Iceland where the wages are “substantially higher”.

The U.Ks new immigration law, could have major ramifications on the salmon processing industry as it is reliant on overseas labour.

“I make no apology for the fact that we think that if you stand in a cold factory filleting fish you should be paid a number beginning with a two rather than a number beginning with a one,” added Jack, reported in the Telegraph.

Secretary of State for Scotland and Conservative MP for Dumfries and Galloway Alister Jack. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Asked about a prominent fish processor who attacked the UK Government plans, Jack said: “that he is upset that he will have to pay a little bit more money going forward.”

“There’s been a tendency in the past for us to bring in cheap migrant labour and they’ve come on the basis they get access to our NHS and our benefits system,” he said.

Very narrow band of skillset

He was, in fact, responding to a letter from Christopher Leigh, CEO of the high-end salmon smoker and supplier to the Queen John Ross JR.

In the original letter sent to SalmonBusiness from Christopher Leigh, and which was sent to the Press & Journal, Leigh attacked the Government’s low-skilled worker ban as “economic suicide”.

He wrote that Home Secretary Priti Patel’s new visa system to focus one strand of the UK’s working population “makes up for a very narrow band of skillset”. He used the example of Aberdeenshire, Scotland-based, John Ross Jr to highlight that only “four people working on the production floor are from Scotland, with the rest hailing from Poland, Latvia, Czech Republic and Estonia”.

“The reality is that if it were not for freedom of movement afforded by the European Union, John Ross would not be where it is today”. John Ross Jr’s kilns in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, have been used for uniquely cold smoking salmon for more than 150 years PHOTO John Ross Jr

“This isn’t through a lack of trying to recruit Scottish people; they simply don’t respond to our recruitment campaigns or apply for many of the jobs”.

However, in no part of the letter did Leigh mention that he was upset at having to pay more out, however, though he did write that: “The reality is that if it were not for freedom of movement afforded by the European Union, John Ross would not be where it is today. Closing the door on European workers now would be a case of the UK cutting its nose off to spite its face. It would also be disastrous for businesses, devastating for the communities in which they operate and catastrophic for the UK economy.”

Overseas workers are vital
In a statement to SalmonBusiness, Leigh wrote:

“Frustratingly, the Secretary of State’s comments not only fail to address my original concerns, but they also provide yet another example of government failing to appreciate the real challenges associated with sourcing labour at a local level.

“In wrongly suggesting that John Ross is more concerned about having to pay its employees higher wages than having unfettered access to hard-working and skilled people from overseas, the Secretary of State has bypassed the heart of the issue.

“Overseas workers are vital for many Scottish businesses and play a critical role in supporting the regional economy. Today’s comments by the Secretary of State demonstrate a total disregard for this.”

SalmonBusiness has requested a response from Secretary of State for Scotland.