Scottish fishermen have taken aim at the UK Government over Brexit export issues which have seen them frozen out of traditional EU markets. 

A fleet of lorries from across the West Coast and beyond has headed south of the border to protest outside Downing Street over fears they may be driven out of business

New export rules brought about by Brexit have sparked long delays at the border, causing severe problems for fishermen, whose catch has to be transported at speed. 

Shellfish exporters have been hit particularly hard, and have threatened to dump rotten fish outside No 10 unless the situation improves. 

HeraldScotland:

Some producers have been futhered angered by flippant remarks from the Uk Government, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg claiming fish were happier to be caught after Brexit.

The MP landed himself at the centre of a social media storm after claiming fish are “better and happier” because they are now British.

The North East Somerset MP was responding to claims by SNP Commons leader Tommy Sheppard about the 'lorry loads of seafood being destroyed and the industry losing £1 million a day' following Brexit.

Alasdair Hughson,  Chairman of the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation, said: "After the year that all of these businesses have had, struggling to survive against the odds, now faced with this situation - To now find themselves being blamed for not completing forms correctly when they are all just trying to follow Government guidelines which are unclear and changing all of the time.

READ MORE: Lorries pile up near Downing Street in protest over Brexit export issues

"Hearing a wealthy and privileged Tory Minister making frivolous comments in the Parliament in some ridiculous attempt at playground humour, the last straw for many we think.

"If this debacle does not improve very soon we are looking at many established businesses coming to the end of the line."

HeraldScotland:

The convoy departed this morning

He warned that the issues facing his business could have far-reaching consequences for local communties which rely on the work fishing brings.

Mr Hughson said: "With the knock on effects for all who depend on them, including the hundreds of small Fishing businesses in extremely fragile communities around our Coasts who rely on these trucks to turn up day after day, week after week to get their catch to Market.

"From seabed to plate this is not an easy business. People put their heart and soul into making it work, with ridiculously long hours.

"The blood sweat and tears poured into their operations. What else can they do but fight to make their voices heard." 

READ MORE: Scots fishermen admit sailings to Denmark to sell their fish because of Brexit in PM protest

He added: "We need Government and Civil Service to step up to the plate like never before and do whatever they can to help this industry survive and get through this so that we can all benefit when things improve.

"All we want to do is roll up our sleeves and get to work supporting our communities.

"We don't have all the answers but they are out there and we need to find them."

James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “Anger amongst Scotland’s seafood exporters has been simmering for two weeks now as the door to their most important market has been slammed shut.

"Many now fear for their survival. That anger has been stoked by a number UK Ministers dismissing this crisis as ‘teething problems’ or, worse still, trying to make jokes about it.

“It is five days since the Prime Minister promised compensation and nothing has happened. In fact, other members of Cabinet seem to have been walking away from that commitment."

“Compensation is now critical. However, that will only buy a little time. We desperately need to press pause on the new bureaucratic checks on exports. We need time to get systems properly built as they keep falling down – as happened again over the weekend. 

Mr Withers added: “The UK Government has already paused checks on EU imports until July 2021 and we need the same for goods going in the opposite direction, into the EU. That requires immediate dialogue with the European Commission.

“All our warnings that systems weren’t ready have sadly proven true and it is businesses now paying the heavy price for complacency and failure to act on our warnings.

"The Government’s own watchdog, the National Audit Office, gave the same warning that was not acted upon. Action now is critical to try and rescue a desperate situation for many.”

Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been severely disrupted by delays since the UK’s transition period ended on December 31.

Some Scottish fishermen have been landing their catch in Denmark to avoid the “bureaucratic system” that exports to Europe now involve.

HeraldScotland:

A spokesperson from DR Collin & Son, who were taking part in the protest, said: “We have been asked to take part in a peaceful protest with another 20-plus Shellfish Exporters from around the whole of the UK in connection with the current difficulties that the seafood industry is facing due to the new Brexit regulations.

“The industry is being tied in knots with paperwork requirements which would be easy enough to navigate, given that companies have put in the time and training in order to have all the relevant procedures in place for 1st January 2021.

“However, all the training is going to waste as the technology is outdated and cannot cope with the demands being placed on it – which in turn is resulting in no produce being able to leave the UK.

“These are not ‘teething issues’ as reported by the Government and the consequences of these problems will be catastrophic on the lives of fishermen, fishing towns and the shellfish industry as a whole.

“Action needs to be taken urgently to allow the procedures to be realigned in a manner which reflects the time restraints faced in the export of live shellfish to Europe.

“We are trying to adapt our business together with our customers with a view to come into line with the new regulations, however, no-one is listening to our industry.”