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The ‘disastrous’ post-Brexit officialdom now faced by Scotland’s seafood exporters was driven right to the heart of the UK Government on Monday.
In a show of protest at bureaucratic delays which have added hours and hours to the process of getting fresh produce to customers in the EU – a mass convoy of 21 lorries arrived at Parliament Square, Westminster – just yards from Number 10 Downing Street.
Firms from Scotland, Wales and England joined the motorcade which included a lorry from Islay Crab Exports Ltd of Port Ellen.
Organiser Allan Miller, originally of Tarbert, now runs Aberdeen-based shellfish supply company AM Shellfish Ltd.
The convoy – some bearing slogans condemning the ‘Brexit carnage’ and ‘Incompetent Government Destroying Shellfish industry’ – was ‘clapped’ by bystanders and attracted ‘phenomenal’ media coverage, said Mr Miller, who said Brexit had been ‘devastating’ for the sector.
The show of frustration was designed to highlight the changes that are needed for the seafood sector which are faced with having to load up a full 24 hours earlier in order to jump the hoops needed to get produce to the continent.
He explained that the delays seriously impacted the quality of Scotland’s seafood which is revered throughout Europe – particularly if drivers faced further obstacles with ferry delays.
Mr Miller said the whole process of exporting needed to be urgently ‘streamlined’ as companies are ‘haemorrhaging money left, right and centre’ and facing losses ‘week after week’.
He also expressed his amazement that in a digital age, exporting remained heavy reliant on physical ‘paperwork’.
Mr Miller told The Oban Times: ‘The paperwork and customs is all time we do not have. There is no sell-by date with the produce – it’s either alive or dead. It is more staff hours required and more driver hours.’
A simple error in the documentation could also further frustrate getting exports out.
Responding to news that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced a £23 million fund to help the seafood sector, Mr Miller said while the money would help some, it was not the point of the protest. ‘We’re looking for fixes to the problems,’ he said.
Among the other firms from Scotland taking part on Monday were D. R Collin and Son, Berwickshire; Sutherland Game and Shellfish, Lairg.
Companies from England included Coquet Island Shellfish Ltd, the Dartmouth Crab Company; Camel Fish, and from Wales, Syren Shellfish.