Scottish fishermen who took their trucks on a protest convoy to London this week have said they did not back Brexit  - but are now paying the price. 

Inshore fishermen and members of the Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation blockaded Downing Street on Monday in protest over new trading rules which has left them unable to export their catch. 

New export laws governing seafood, and problems implementing the complex bureaucracy now needed to take food to the EU after the UK quit the single market, mean that tons of shellfish and other seafood has been left rotting at the border.

Now some fishermen are tying up their boats at the quayside until the situation is resolved or a breakthrough is made, but many fear they will be driven out of business by Brexit - despite promises by the Leave campaign that 'taking back control' of UK waters would secure their livelihood for generations.  

The inshore fishermen  - small-scale operators who provide work in rural communities - say that only the 'quota barons' who fish on the open ocean were in favour of Brexit, and are indignant at being tarred with the same brush. 

Alistair Sinclair, National Coordinator, Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation, said: “We have had to constantly rebut the suggestion that we (our industry) voted for Brexit. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas. 

“We are not the quota barons, who were rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of getting all the fish in the North Sea.  

“We are the small-scale guys who go out in boats of less than ten meters, and come back at night to our communities. We provide work and employment for the boys and make sure there are jobs were there’s often not much other work.” 

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

Ironically, the promised 'sunny upsides' of Brexit did not emerge for the fishing industry as a whole, with  Mike Park - chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association - saying members were "deeply aggrieved" at the very challenging situation they now face for 2021.

In December, when the thin trade deal negotiated between Boris Johnson and his EU counterparts emerged, the fishing fleet was left with access to fewer cod, haddock and whiting, according to the Scottish government. 


Lorries head to London

Mr Sinclair added: “Now a lot of the big guys are finding that the Tories speak with forked tongues, and that the promised land hasn’t materialised.” 

The day of the blockade - which resulted in fines for Covid-related offences for 14 of those who took part - saw the UK government unveiled a £23 million compensation scheme for those caught up in red tape. 

But this was dismissed by Mr Sinclair, who said many inshore fishermen will not be able to access the grants because of the fundamental way the industry operated.    

The fisherman said: “Boris has had a knee-jerk reaction with £20m in compensation, and we hear there’s £100m to come, depending on conditions.  

“But one of those [conditions] is that we have to have a guaranteed buyer. Our industry works by taking produce to market to be sold, so you don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, though in the past it did. We don’t know who the buyer is going to be. 

“Boris doesn’t seem to understand on how an industry which relies on the market works.”

He added: “It’s a shambles. There’s guys who are just not going out, their boats are ties up at quayside. It’s not looking good for them and there’s only weeks to sort this out.” 

James Cook, Managing Director, DR Collin & Son in Eyemouth, Berwickshire, who took part in the protest, rejected suggestions by UK government ministers that the problems afflicting the Scottish fishermen were "teething troubles".

He said that his firm would not be able to take advantage of compensation, something which was known before Monday's protest. 

Mr Cook said: “There’s not going to be an industry like there used to be. At the moment we can’t get crab claws out of the country at all. It’s not delays – they are not allowed to ship them and won’t be until Defra sorts this it.  

READ MORE: Seafood protesters fined after London Brexit demonstration

“We did not vote for Brexit, but we are paying the price for it. We have been warning for three years the impact this would have on our business, but we were ignored.  

“We come from the small scale industry and we did not support this shambles. We knew the affect it would have.” 

HeraldScotland: Creel fishing industry faces uncertain times

Iconic Scottish produce is tied up in red tape 

Announcing the £23 million compensation scheme for fishermen who have been affected by the new export rules, UK Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid said: "This funding announcement is the latest step in the UK Government’s continued engagement with the senior representatives of the industry to identify specific problems and to apply rapid solutions.

"Those conversations are, of course, aimed at addressing immediate concerns, and at finding longer-term, sustainable solutions to the challenges that the industry faces.

"Working with Scottish seafood business leaders, we want to get the best out of our exit from the Common Fisheries Policy and the opportunities that presents, as well maximising the investment package delivered by the UK Government."