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Scottish seafood trucks arrive in Downing Street for Brexit protest

Scottish seafood exporters have taken their protest over Brexit red tape woes to Downing Street.

At least 10 and reportedly as many as 50 lorries from all over the UK – some branded with messages for prime minister Boris Johnson – have gathered in the heart of London.

A statement by the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) and also signed by the boss of Scottish exporter DR Collin & Son, of Eyemouth, said: “Every community around the coastline of Scotland should be encouraged to applaud the actions of this vital demonstration from within the seafood supply chain that supplies Europe with the finest seafood in the world.

“It is heartening to witness the clans of Scotland coming together.”

We are looking at many established businesses coming to the end of the line.”

SCFF chairman Alasdair Hughson, managing director of Keltic Seafare, of Dingwall, added: “It is inevitable that the UK Shellfish industry would want to make its voice heard loud and clear on this matter.

“After the year that all of these businesses have had, struggling to survive against the odds and now faced with this situation – to now find themselves being blamed for not completing forms correctly when they are all just trying to follow government guidelines which are unclear and changing all of the time.

“Hearing a wealthy and privileged Tory minister making frivolous comments in the parliament in some ridiculous attempt at playground humour is the last straw for many we think.

“If this debacle does not improve very soon, we are looking at many established businesses coming to the end of the line.

“With the knock-on effects for all who depend on them, including the hundreds of small fishing businesses in extremely fragile communities around our coasts who rely on these trucks to turn up day after day, week after week to get their catch to market.

All we want to do is roll up our sleeves and get to work supporting our communities.”

“This is not an easy business. People put their heart and soul into making it work, with ridiculously long hours. The blood sweat and tears poured into their operations.

“What else can they do but fight to make their voices heard. We need the government and civil service to step up to the plate like never before, and do whatever they can to help this industry survive and get through this so that we can all benefit when things improve.

“All we want to do is roll up our sleeves and get to work supporting our communities.

“We don’t have all the answers but they are out there and we need to find them.”

The governments in Edinburgh and London are blaming each other for a log-jam of seafood lorries – due to red tape – at export distribution facilities in central Scotland.

IT problems on both sides of the Channel have also delayed Scottish exports to key markets in Europe.

One seafood firm, Aberdeen-based John Ross Jr, has accused the UK Government of “gross incompetence”.

Seafood export woes have left about a third of the Scottish fishing fleet tied up in port after a slump in the value of its catch.

Scottish fishing industry chief Elspeth Macdonald has written to the prime minister voicing anger over the mounting financial losses faced by vessels on top of the “desperately poor” Brexit fisheries deal.

Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers said: “Anger amongst Scotland’s seafood exporters has been simmering for two weeks now as the door to their most important market has been slammed shut. Many now fear for their survival.

“That anger has been stoked by a number of UK ministers dismissing this crisis as ‘teething problems’ or, worse still, trying to make jokes about it.

“It is five days since the prime minister promised compensation and nothing has happened.

“In fact, other members of cabinet seem to have been walking away from that commitment.

“Compensation is now critical, however, that will only buy a little time. We desperately need to press pause on the new bureaucratic checks on exports.

“We need time to get systems properly built as they keep falling down – as happened again over the weekend.”

“All our warnings that systems weren’t ready have sadly proven true.”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink

Mr Withers added: “The UK Government has already paused checks on EU imports until July 2021 and we need the same for goods going in the opposite direction, into the EU. That requires immediate dialogue with the European Commission.

“All our warnings that systems weren’t ready have sadly proven true, and it is businesses now paying the heavy price for complacency and failure to act on our warnings.

“The government’s own watchdog, the National Audit Office, gave the same warning that was not acted upon. Action now is critical to try and rescue a desperate situation for many.”

Orkney and Shetland Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said there should be “no surprise” that seafood exporters have taken to the streets to protest against the disruption they are facing.

‘Betrayed’

Mr Carmichael added: “I suspect that it will be a pleasant change for these lorry drivers to be able to drive instead of sitting waiting in a depot or at a port somewhere.

“It should be no surprise to anyone in Whitehall that our seafood exporters are angry. That anger will only rise in the coming days if these issues are not resolved.

“Talk of ‘teething problems’ looks more and more ludicrous with every hour that passes.

“Fishermen feel betrayed by those who used and abused their support – they deserve better. The government has a duty to make good the harms caused by their complacency and incompetence.”

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