Post-Brexit delays to seafood exports are “shameful and disgraceful”, Nicola Sturgeon said as she accused the UK Government of failing to resolve the issue.
Companies trying to export fish and other Scottish seafood have encountered red tape since the new trading rules with the EU came into force at the start of this month.
Industry body Scotland Food and Drink said “emergency financial aid” may be needed after lorries were held up at distribution hubs and exporters struggled to get goods to market in France.
At the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, the First Minister was asked what measures are being taken to alleviate the situation.
She said: “The catastrophe that our seafood exporters are facing right now is absolutely shameful and disgraceful.
“But for the crisis of Covid that we’re living through right now, I am sure this would be dominating the headlines every single day.”
She said the UK Government had failed to give exporters enough time to understand the implications of the new rules.
The First Minister continued: “The Scottish Government and Scottish food and drink stakeholders have repeatedly warned that businesses need more time to effectively prepare for these changes but the UK Government point-blank refused to listen to a request for a six-month grace period.
“We’re pressing the UK Government to fix this mess, it’s a mess entirely of their making.
“So far there’s no sense of urgency or any suggestion at all that they are prepared to do that.”
She said Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing supports calls for businesses to be compensated for their losses.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with the industry to help understand and address the issues they are experiencing, including contacting exporters, their representatives and transporters to advise on the requirements for keeping their goods moving.
“The Scottish Government cannot abdicate their responsibilities to Scottish businesses. Over the past 18 months they have assured the fishing industry that the systems they were putting in place would be adequate. They clearly are not.
“The Scottish Government need to step up and ensure there are no delays to food exports being checked at hubs in their area.
“We have given the Scottish Government nearly £200 million to prepare for leaving the EU, to minimise disruption and guarantee business readiness.”