Scottish Liberal Democrat representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Jamie Stone MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP have together written to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps calling for special support measures for food producers in light of recent export restrictions. The group wrote to Mr Shapps yesterday calling for extra support to be put in place for Highlands and Islands businesses which risk being disproportionately impacted by restrictions due to the long distances involved in exporting from rural and island areas of Scotland. While restrictions have been partially lifted on exports via France, there are concerns that greater disruption is to come with the arrival of new trade barriers in the new year.
Commenting on the letter, Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael said:
“The Highlands and Islands are more vulnerable than most when it comes to sudden trade disruption – we need government assurances that the particular challenges of distance and perishable goods are being kept in mind.
“In recent weeks I have met with food producers around the isles and with ministers to discuss our concerns about the impact of trade changes. The Government committed then to help producers in case of severe disruption – now it is time we saw what support will be forthcoming. This week may be just a foretaste of the challenges coming in the new year, deal or no deal, so it is essential that our businesses can have a measure of confidence from the Government.”
Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart said:
“This is an incredibly serious situation. While reasonable public health measures are needed to control the spread of the virus, the government must do all it can to ensure island food exporters can get their perishable goods to market, at what is the busiest time of the year.
“Michael Gove told me at a committee session last week that, for seafood exports after Brexit, government “will ensure that, in Kent, we do not have the type of traffic disruption that some have feared”. This disruption does not bode well for the end of the transition period in a just over a week’s time. The UK Government must urgently organise an extension to mitigate economic damage and help our vital food and drink businesses.”
Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur said:
“Businesses across the Highlands and Islands simply can’t afford to contend with the level of disruption in exports currently being seen. Any delay in exporting perishable goods risks dire consequences for businesses in Orkney, already having to cope with tight deadlines.
“At the end of the most challenging of years, further financial turmoil is the last thing small businesses in the islands need heading into 2021. The UK Government’s determination to press ahead with Brexit at any and all cost appears utterly reckless.
“The very least that businesses across the Highlands and Islands deserve is support to mitigate the economic impact they face. It’s vital the UK Government now comes forward with urgent measures to head off this impending crisis.”