Some Scottish fishermen are now landing their catch in Denmark to avoid the “bureaucratic system” that exports to Europe now involve, the Rural Economy Secretary has claimed.
Fergus Ewing used a statement to Holyrood to speak out about the problem the fishing fleet had faced as a result of Brexit.
Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been hit by delays after the UK’s transition period ended on December 31, with Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston saying this “uncertainty” had resulted in some boats opting to stay in port.
Meanwhile, Scottish Government analysis of the Brexit deal finally agreed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed the amount of fish the fleet can land will fall for a number of key catches – including North Sea haddock and cod.
The agreement also allows for European boats to fish in UK waters for the next five years.
Speaking about the deal, Mr Ewing told MSPs: “Remarkably the Scottish industry will now have access to fewer fishing opportunities than under the existing Common Fisheries Policy arrangements, even at the end of the five-and-a-half year adjustment period.”
The Rural Economy Secretary said one business had told him that if the problems with exporting their catch continued for another week they may no longer be able to stay in business.
He added: “Fishing vessels are landing their catch in Denmark now to avoid the bureaucratic system.
“Prices have collapsed for the caught fish sector by 50% or more, trade deals have been lost and customers gone elsewhere.
“This is a truly dreadful situation.”
He hit out at the UK Government, saying its “broken promises leave our fishermen woefully short of their expectations and their sense of betrayal is evident in their responses”.
Mr Ewing insisted fishermen were “deeply aggrieved” at the situation, which has been branded “capitulation on a monumental scale” by Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation.
He said the Scottish Government would push Westminster to compensate the industry for losses sustained as a result of Brexit.
He told MSPs: “I do believe the Prime Minister has promised compensation. That compensation must be paid very quickly.”
Mr Halcro Johnston conceded that fishermen had experienced some difficulties.
He said: “It is clear that the sector has faced considerable problems in recent days, with a number of boats opting to stay in port because of uncertainty about whether some of their catch can be exported in time.
“There have been a range of issues, with customs declarations and IT issues playing a part.”
But he also attacked the SNP, saying its policy of having an independent Scotland join the European Union would result in a loss of control over fishing waters.
He said: “Mr Ewing and the SNP would hand those fisheries powers back to Brussels, would have Scotland’s fishermen back in the Common Fisheries Policy just as soon as they can.”