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Argyll and Bute Council’s leader has called on the secretary of state for Scotland to help safeguard the future of the area’s fishing industry.
Kintyre and the Islands councillor Robin Currie has told Alister Jack MP in a letter that the seafood sector ‘desperately’ needs government action to secure its survival.
He also said that he had been contacted by ‘numerous’ constituents with concerns about the industry’s sustainability since the UK left the European Union on December 31.
The letter was on the agenda for the Bute and Cowal community planning group on Tuesday, and the Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands community planning group on Wednesday.
Councillor Currie said: ‘The seafood sector is a vital component of our already-fragile regional economy and the inability, virtually overnight, for producers and processors to get their time-sensitive products to market or to customers.
‘If allowed to go unresolved, this sector is likely to disappear badly affecting Argyll and Bute’s overall recovery and future growth.
‘Fish and shellfish from Argyll and Bute are high quality products of international renown. The industry has been a mainstay and a major employer in the area for many decades, sustaining not only the local economy but making a significant contribution to the Scottish and UK economies.
‘Now, though, I am hearing from fishing families of long standing, newer start-up businesses and companies employing hundreds of people in total, that if urgent action is not taken, they will have to close their doors for good.
‘This would be devastating for Argyll and Bute, where the sector comprises many single, family-operated vessels, smaller fleets, artisan producers as well as some medium to larger enterprises.
‘As a council, we are doing all that we can to support these businesses and prevent this imminent disaster.
‘Our officers are working behind the scenes to assist and are in constant discussions with the Scottish Government to reiterate the critical need for the commercial hubs to operate smoothly, ensuring that the right processes are in place to help businesses get their goods to their customers.
‘We are also speaking with local producers to help them navigate these new processes and to issue all the necessary paperwork where appropriate, so that some of these valuable products reach buyers.’
He added: ‘Most urgently of all, getting products to market must be streamlined, simplified and sped up. These products need to be prioritised over less time sensitive products with longer shelf lives – if the situation is allowed to persist then very many companies will have no choice but to give up, costing jobs and much-needed revenue to the treasury.
‘In addition to improving processes and the speed of delivery here in the UK, these businesses, so vital to Argyll and Bute and Scotland’s economic recovery and future success, need your government to negotiate urgently with its counterparts in Europe to identify and resolve the delays in allowing fresh goods to arrive in and then to progress on to customers.
‘I cannot state strongly enough that these actions are needed now. More is required, though, in the medium and longer terms, to help this beleaguered industry to get afloat again and regain some buoyancy.’