STAFF shortages are ramping up uncertainty for Ross-shire businesses into 2019, experts have warned.
That is the prediction of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) which said Highland employers are too reliant on the EU but the market is drying up fast thanks to Brexit and the low pound. Highlands and Islands development manager David Richardson said there are not enough suitably qualified job seekers to fill Highland vacancies and that has been the situation for some time.
But things will only get worse unless the UK Government accepts a new immigration policy “that helps rather than hinders the Highlands”.
He said: “As their workforces shrink, many employers will find it very hard to provide the levels of service that their customers expect and demand. And the consequences are obvious.
“But there is no easy answer and we must all pray that politicians do a deal on Brexit before we crash out without one. At a practical level, we must hope that the UK Government accepts a new immigration policy that helps rather than hinders the Highlands, and we must all do what we can to support our local businesses. By supporting them we are supporting ourselves and our communities.”
It comes after the Skretting salmon fish feed company in Invergordon announced more than 50 jobs are to be lost with the closure of its factory.
And the Edinburgh Salmon Company in Dingwall officially ceased trading earlier this week with the loss of more than 200 jobs. The impact on the local economy is also being felt in the local housing rental market.
A landlord in Dingwall said he was seeking new tenants for the two three-bed houses he has been renting for the last few years, traditionally to Polish families.
He said: “Each family has contacted us saying they have no future here now that the fish factory is shutting down. They said ‘nothing for us here, we’re going back to Poland’.”
Mr Richardson said it was a worrying situation but there is room for optimism with the boom in the tourism sector, thanks to the North Coast 500, and the falling pound making holidays here less expensive for overseas visitors and making our goods and services cheaper overseas.
And he said the broadband roll-out meant businesses could open in the north’s remote and fragile communities. But he said business optimism is in short supply and many businesses are not looking forward to 2019.