South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has expressed her disbelief in the incompetence of the UK Government in leaving Scotland’s fishing sector with a mountain of problems, following the end of EU exit transition period on December 31 2020.

Many boats, including ones that operate out of Kirkcudbright and Garlieston harbours in Dumfries & Galloway, are currently tied to shore as businesses have become unviable and within weeks many say they will be out of business completely unless changes are urgently made. This is all because, on the 31 of December, new IT systems, regulatory, welfare and customs checks came into force for Scottish seafood exports going to Europe – despite calls for a six month transition period, also called a derogation, so that new systems and checks could be trialled. This was refused by the UK Government.

Ms Harper, a South Scotland MSP, raised this issue directly with the First Minister and with the Cabinet Secretary and has been working directly with affected businesses – such as West Coast Sea Products. Ms Harper has called on the UK Government and Scottish Secretary – local MP Alister Jack – to urgently sort this issue and provide meaningful compensation to Scottish seafood exporters and fishermen – not the off the cuff announcement by the Prime Minister of just £23m announced on the 19 of January. Last week Mr Jack blamed the fishing industry for the delays and holdup of their products leaving the UK for EU markets.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“The truth is that, in the years and months leading up to Brexit the Scottish Government and key bodies such as Food Standard Scotland, have been working at pace to raise the issues and requests from the industry in a bid to help shape the UK Government’s deal so that it would work for them. These requests – including for a transition period for the sector to iron out any issues – were flatly ignored by the UK Government. The UK Government needs to fix this for the fishermen.

“The Scottish Government have repeatedly pressed the UK Government to act quickly and compensate businesses affected by these ongoing trade issues. I am pleased to see that they have finally recognised these calls for compensation, but I remain concerned this may be too little, and it appears almost certain that the vast majority of fishing vessels who land but don’t export directly will not be covered by this scheme, which is beyond any rational explanation. The UK Government must step up for all affected businesses.

“The UK Government Brexit ideologies simply cannot deny the impact that non-tariff barriers are having following the UK Government’s decision to leave both the single market and customs union of, by far, our largest seafood export market. They must ensure that their compensation package is open to all whose business has been interrupted or harmed by any aspect of the new export requirements – any attempt to apply conditions or boundaries will render the scheme meaningless and pointless.

“As I did last week, I will continue to stand up for, and indeed work with, those affected across our region such as West Coast Sea Products in Kirkcudbright.”