Brexit uncertainty and changes are a big threat to Western Isles shellfish industry.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan yesterday raised the concerns of the live shellfish sector during a Ministerial Statement to the Scottish Parliament on preparations for a “no-deal” Brexit.
Responding to Alasdair Allan, Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said that one of the specific priorities of the Scottish Government had been to secure much greater clarity and assurance for the shellfish sector about their ability to get their product to market timeously.
While they have not reached a specific point of agreement with the UK Government, the Deputy First Minister said they are hopeful of getting to a position where the UK Government at last understands the need for shellfish to get to market as quickly as possible.
In a recent answer to a Parliamentary Question regarding shellfish, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP said that the Scottish Government was not aware of any contingency plan by the UK Government for Scotland's shellfish, and that they have repeatedly urged the UK Government to consider special arrangements for hauliers of perishable goods, such as live shellfish, so that vehicles carrying products are prioritised on the way to the border in order to reduce delays.
Shellfish landings play an important role in the economy of the Western Isles, accounting for around 90% of total landings.
Alasdair Allan MSP said:“Presently, shellfish exporters in the Western Isles face challenging enough circumstances in delivering via ferry and road produce to their primary export markets in France and Spain – all while ensuring the shellfish stay alive during journeys of up to thousands of miles.
“However, the threat of “no-deal” and post-Brexit export tariffs, border delays and the need for extra documentation such as Export Health Certificates are causing real anxiety to local producers.
“This is a vitally important part of the island economy and yet another example of why, whatever your views on the merits of Brexit, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit has to be avoided at all costs.
"The UK Government need to provide much greater assurances as to how shellfish producers can continue to export to the continent in this scenario.”