MILLIONS of pounds worth of Scottish seafood is “stuck at Dover” as Government officials on both sides of the Channel frantically seek to come up with a plan to unblock Britain.

Fears of the new, more infectious strain of Covid-19 spreading to the continent has led to France slapping a 48-hour ban on freight and passengers.

But, following a telephone conversation between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron, hopes rose that a new health protocol could be in place, that would allow freight and travellers to resume their cross-Channel journeys. It is thought a quick coronavirus test at the border could solve the logjam.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Travel ban hits UK.Camley's Cartoon: Travel ban hits UK.

However, any major delay could prove costly for some traders, most notably the Scottish seafood industry.

Last week, Scottish Government export figures showed France remained the single largest importer of Scottish food and drink products.

Exports to France for the first nine months of 2020 were already down 11.3 per cent on the same period the previous year.

James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink, insisted urgent action was needed to protect “perishable products worth millions”.

He explained: “We need the ban on freight moving across the English Channel lifted in the next 24 hours so products can start moving by Tuesday morning at the latest.

“We have heard from companies with dozens of lorries now stuck, having travelled overnight to Dover or the Eurotunnel which are now shut to incoming traffic.

“They are carrying perishable products worth millions and the clock is ticking for that product to survive these delays.”

Mr Withers said it was estimated that there would be over £5 million of Scottish food that would be been heading into France daily this week.

“The timing of this could scarcely be worse for many businesses. There are critically important markets scheduled for Wednesday in France and Spain as part of the big pre-Christmas sales rush.

“As things stand, Scottish seafood exports will not reach them, which will compound the losses businesses have already suffered as a result of Covid this year.”

Saying he understood the concerns of France and others about the new Covid strain but added: “We need the UK Government to urgently agree a protocol for freight movements, with perhaps the testing of drivers able to provide the necessary reassurance.”

Jimmy Buchan of the Scottish Seafood Association pointed out how the seafood industry had already suffered due to the ongoing pandemic and was now facing a "disaster".

"These few days in the run-up to Christmas are hugely busy for a lot of our members with seafood destined for all parts of the continent going via France.

"Traditionally in Spain seafood is a major part of Christmas Eve and most of our exports get there via the Eurotunnel or Dover-Calais routes, so it is a disaster for our members," declared the association’s Chief Executive.

The salmon farming industry faces possible losses of £6.5m this week as up to 100 lorries of salmon are being hit by the closure of the Channel crossing.

"Europe is a key market for Scottish salmon and we expect the government to explore all practical options for resuming trade, including the Covid-19 testing of drivers," said Tavish Scott, head of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation.

Earlier, Nicola Sturgeon stressed that Scotland was "well stocked with food and medical supplies" and her Government would monitor the position closely.

But she added: "What absolutely is an immediate concern is the impact on exporters, not least of perishable goods such as seafood. This is their most critical time of year and right now, their products are trapped miles from their markets. That has to be urgently resolved.”

Meanwhile, as some supermarket shoppers were reporting seeing queues and empty shelves similar to those from the start of the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown, Downing St made clear people should not panic-buy.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “I would point to what the British Retail Consortium have said this morning that retailers have stocked up on goods ahead of the Christmas period…We have a diverse and resilient supply chain, which has coped well.”

Asked if this was the Prime Minister urging people not to panic-buy, he replied: “Yes. As we have been clear throughout, we have resilient supply chains. It is the case that the majority of our food doesn’t come in through the short strait…People should shop normally.”