Urgent action called for to fix Channel hold-ups

Victoria Prentis and Tavish Scott met in Shetland

Delays at the UK’s Channel ports following Brexit need to be addressed urgently, Scotland’s salmon industry has warned.

Yesterday Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of industry body Salmon Scotland, met in Shetland with UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis to highlight the disruption, and the importance of salmon exports for island and rural communities.

Fresh salmon from Scotland will normally arrive in France the following morning, but in recent weeks there have been delays of up to 48 hours due to queues on the UK side of the Channel – and there are concerns of repeat problems.

Hauliers and holidaymakers have been enduring long delays at French border posts set up at UK ports, particularly at Dover. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, UK travellers must have their passports checked and stamped before entering France.

The UK Government has blamed France for failing to resource its border posts sufficiently, while others have argued that the delays are an inevitable consequence of Brexit.

The vast majority of the UK’s fresh salmon exports go to or through France, and hold-ups of up to 48 hours can either greatly reduce the value of a shipment, or make it unsaleable.

Salmon Scotland has called on the UK Government to introduce immediate contingency plans for perishable goods to have priority status when delays occur at peak times such as the summer holidays.

But, the organisation said, there also needs to be a longer-term permanent post-Brexit solution after schools return, with extra capacity in place to avoid delays for all transport, and flexibility built in to adapt for shifts in demand.

Salmon Scotland has also pointed out that, in contrast to the French side of the crossing, the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone does not have a “buffer zone” to park non-essential traffic so that priority shipments can get through

Scottish salmon competes in the European marketplace with Norway, which is not experiencing the same disruption to exports.

Tavish Scott said: “This meeting was a welcome opportunity to set out the challenges currently facing salmon exporters and the risk to the Scottish and UK economies unless urgent action is taken.

“As the UK’s biggest food export, it is vital for jobs in Scotland and for the UK economy that we avoid any hold-ups at the Channel.

“Fresh Scottish salmon is perishable and needs to arrive with customers as quickly as possible.

“We have urged the UK Government to prioritise the movement of perishable goods. Following today’s constructive meeting, we are hopeful of swift action.”