‘Catastrophe’ fears for Scotland’s seafood sector

Campbeltown fishing boats.
Fishing boats in Campbeltown harbour.

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Scotland’s rural seafood sector could face ‘catastrophe’ this Christmas because of France’s border closure with the UK.

‘Chaos in Kent’ at the weekend saw miles of tailbacks build up on roads to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.

It followed the UK Government announcement on Saturday of a tier four lockdown for London and the south east of England.

The Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) warned today that tonnes of fresh exports could fail to reach European distribution centres in time for Christmas.

The SSA described this week as ‘the most important’ in the calendar with massive consignments of freshly-harvested Scottish delicacies bound for Europe’s dining tables.

French authorities banned traffic from coming in or going out.

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the SSA, has worked as a trawlerman and skipper in a career spanning more than 40 years.

He said that the log jam had serious implications for many Scottish seafood companies, including those on the west coast and the Northern Isles.

Mr Buchan said: ‘We’ve all heard the expression a perfect storm – well this is a storm within a storm within a storm. We’ve had Brexit, Covid and now this.’

‘Every hour is critical to our supply chain and we have it sitting on a motorway with nowhere to go.

‘Every day that passes devalues the product to the point it becomes unrecoverable,’ said Mr Buchan.

He put the cost at £5 million a day with ‘live’ produce from langoustines to lobster and crab only having a certain shelf life. The delays also impact drivers transporting frozen produce, along with scallops, squid and processed fish.

With exports bound for distant countries such as Spain, Italy and Belgium, as well as France, many drivers will not make the journey in time with millions of pounds of stock having to be written off, he said.

The SSA has called for the UK Government to work with the French authorities to at least allow lorries through containing ‘perishable’ items. It also wants to see the UK Treasury provide a compensation scheme.