The SNP are not lifting a finger to help Scottish fishing exports in the hopes of a failure they can blame on Brexit, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
In recent days there have been delays to Scottish fishing exports for two reasons - as a result of hold-ups in Scotland that have not been resolved, and because of IT failures that the UK and French authorities quickly cleared up.
Checks in Scotland are performed by Scottish Government agencies, and Jimmy Buchan of the Scottish Seafood Association said this morning that “what should be a forty-five to one hour check is taking nearly five hours.”
He added: “The problem is definitely in Scotland, at the hubs prior to dispatch. It's the one thing that we have continuously asked Government, are they ready? They kept asking us, were we ready? And we are ready, but it appears that Government are not.”
Scottish Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, David Duguid, said: “The Scottish Conservatives are working constructively, engaging with stakeholders and both of Scotland’s government to make sure our world-class fishing exports reach their destination as quickly as possible.
“The SNP don’t seem to be lifting a finger. How can they plausibly claim that Food Standards Scotland have enough resources when industry experts are telling us that checks in Scotland are taking five times as long as they should?
“It’s a sad fact that the government in Edinburgh are crossing their fingers and hoping for failure so they can try to score political points, instead of doing their job and giving the Scottish fishing industry all the necessary resources.
“Funding provided to the SNP for Brexit preparations, alongside funding for business support in general, have gone unspent. The SNP are doing the bare minimum and it’s creating huge issues.
“Teething problems were always going to happen but the lack of preparation on the SNP’s part is a disgrace. Processors have taken every care to ensure all their paperwork is in order yet still they face unacceptable delays - delays the Scottish Government must tackle as a matter of urgency.”
Here is a transcript of comments by the Scottish Seafood Association on Good Morning Scotland today:
Gary Robertson: How serious are these delays?
Jimmy Buchan, Seafood Association Executive: I think they're very serious, because I've sent out a circuit to our members this morning, asking who is whole-buying seafood today for export and every one of them has come back and said no they are not buying.
Gary: Because of the red tape?
Buchan: It's not too much the red tape, the red tape is a hurdle, we always knew that was something we would have to overcome, but it is the sheer frustration and the time that it is taking to check these lorries prior to export. And what should be a forty-five to one hour check is taking nearly five hours, so if you've got to hold every lorry by a factor of five then you're going to have a serious problem on your hands and that is where we are today.
Gary: And is the problem on this side of the channel or on the other side?
Buchan: The problem is definitely in Scotland, at the hubs prior to dispatch. It's the one thing that we have continuously asked Government, are they ready? They kept asking us, were we ready? And we are ready, but it appears that Government are not. And they haven't put the resources in place to be able to cope with the volumes and the significance of the change in the trading arrangements.
Gary: Because at the moment I understand you have to enter some details electronically beforehand, UK licenses are not connected we heard earlier, entering goods... when goods are entered they are rejecting them?
Buchan: Yes, I mean, look, any huge monumental change like this there are going to be glitches and we've got to accept that and they will be frustrating, but the choke moment seems to be that the lorries arriving at the hubs are taking too long to clear and therefore they are missing the next link, which is the ferries and the trains to be able to get over into Europe. So, it all has to be done timely, but if they are taking five hours to clear a lorry that should be done in 45 minutes it clearly is not going to meet the next link and therefore you have got a twenty-four-hour delay.
Gary: The Scottish Government says it has been working intensively to mitigate the worst impacts of this new export paperwork but says 'we are all learning' it also says it has the necessary veterinary capacity at logistics hubs in Central Scotland, what is your response to that?
Buchan: Well again, speaking with my members, I would challenge if we do have enough vets on site, because two of the hubs that I know of specifically asked for four vets and were only given two. So, it's at fifty percent capacity down. When a vet is taking four to five hours to clear a lorry that means in his eight hours shift, he is going to be doing at best two lorries, when we have got ten to twelve backed up. It is just simply not good enough.