The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS), the representative body for livestock markets, valuers and auctioneers across Scotland, is demanding a rethink of the Scottish Government’s approach towards allocating key worker status in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, particularly surrounding food production and supply.
Currently, the designation has been devolved to local authorities, leading to different decisions being taken across the country, with food supply workers being excluded from key worker designation in many areas of Scotland.
IAAS believes that the continuing operation of livestock markets throughout the crisis is vital to the continued supply of quality produce, gives confidence to consumers across the country that supplies will be uninterrupted and reassurance to farmers and other primary producers that their cash flows will be maintained.
Livestock markets remain in operation, within the public health guidelines provided by the UK and Scottish Governments. But the supply of qualified personnel at the marts is vital to that continuing.
Executive Director of IAAS, Neil Wilson, said: “Everyone appreciates that these are unprecedented times. However, as things stand, the picture is confusing, potentially harmful to food supplies and urgent action is needed to clarify the situation.
“We need the Scottish Government to align with UK Government procedure by deciding nationally on the allocation of key worker roles, rather than that this being the decision of local authorities, which is leading to inconsistent approaches across the country. Some have food supply on their lists, others do not.
“To be clear, we believe that all workers in the food supply chain – those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines) – should be allocated as key workers. This must clearly include auction mart personnel, and would be crucial to ensuring produce continues to flow and protect vulnerable rural communities. That is possible in compliance with public health guidelines on social distancing, within which Scotland’s marts can continue to operate.”
IAAS fully supports the views of Scotland Food and Drink, Food and Drink Federation Scotland, QMS and NFUS that the food chain is a part of the critical national infrastructure and it should be a specific area for inclusion under the key workers scheme.
The Institute has written to Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, asking for his urgent help in securing national key worker designation for market operations personnel, as well as other key food supply workers.