Squabbling 'must stop'
Ross calls for immediate help for fish exports
Douglas Ross: appealed for calm
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has called for compensation for the fishing industry to be brought forward and delivered immediately.
He added that both of Scotland’s governments must stop turning fishing exports into a constitutional battle over Brexit and focus on fixing the problems.
Raising the issue with DEFRA secretary George Eustice in the House of Commons, Douglas Ross asked that the UK Government deliver compensation for unavoidable export losses.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to have pledged a £100 million compensation fund for UK fisheries to help the seafood industry deal with the impacts of export hurdles caused by Brexit.
Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said: “We welcome Boris Johnson’s unequivocal promise of compensation for fisheries businesses affected by the nightmarish bureaucratic hurdles that have been erected since 1 January.
“This is just what we have been calling for in numerous meetings with government officials over the past few days. We now look forward to engaging with the Government on the detail of the package on offer and working with both the UK and Scottish governments to clear the path for exports to resume as normal.”
However, both the Prime Minister and Mr Eustice later appeared to distance themselves from the pledge, prompting the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford to call on Mr Johnso to “deliver a major Brexit compensation package for Scotland’s fishing communities and businesses without further delay.”
The latest twists in the saga came amid continuing delays at ports, lost trade and growing concerns that some fish and other perishable foods based companies would go out of business. One delivery company in the UK has suspended operations until Monday to await IT and paperwork issues to be resolved.
Some fish supplies are not getting to market
German freight company DB Schenker has become the latest firm to suspend deliveries to the UK.
Donna Fordyce, chief executive at Seafood Scotland said around one third of the Scottish fleet is currently tied up and prices are falling sharply.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) supports Ms Fordyce’s call for a derogation of new exporting paperwork and administration to allow time for companies to manage the complex processes now required for each load heading for the EU.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of SSPO said: “We are nearly half-way through January and problems are still entrenched in the exporting process.
Tavish Scott: ‘pragmatic solution’ (pic: SSPO)
“A derogation to fix problems, clarify the administrative anomalies and get systems and staff working seamlessly seems to be a pragmatic and much needed solution.”
Mr Ross is calling on the Scottish Government to accept its side of responsibility and deal with ongoing issues involving Food Standards Scotland, which he accuses of holding up exports in Scotland.
Mr Buchan last week said checks that should take an hour have been taking up to five hours.
In the Scottish Parliament later today the Tories rural spokesman Jamie Halcro Johnston will request that the SNP accept the offer of help from the UK Government to clear up the issues at Food Standards Scotland.
Mr Ross said: “The problems affecting the Scottish fishing industry need to be cleared up immediately.
“Nobody wants to see another constitutional battle over Brexit, they just want both governments to work together to get the problems sorted.
“The UK Government’s offer to provide additional support to help with issues at Food Standards Scotland is welcome and I hope the Scottish Government will now accept that support.
“Financial compensation from the UK Government is also vital and must be delivered as quickly as possible.”
Nigel Driffield, Professor of International Business at Warwick Business School, said:
“Problems with imports and exports after Brexit have long been predicted, but were previously dismissed as project fear.
“It illustrates how even a tiny amount of friction in an otherwise frictionless system causes complications and delays.
“The fact that EU hauliers are finding it uneconomic to come to the UK may create further opportunities for UK firms, but at higher cost and with higher delays. We already have a potential shortage of skills in this sector, so this is likely to raise costs for importers and prices for consumers
“The bigger question relates to future investment decisions, and whether these frictions, plus hitherto unspecified rules of origin changes, lead firms to reconsider future investments.”