SCOTTISH fishing businesses have bemoaned the “unnecessary hassle” of bureaucratic changes to exporting goods to the continent under Brexit rules.

MSPs have also been warned that new customs controls at the UK border to be rolled out in the new year will lead to “quite a lot of bureaucracy” for hauliers.

Holyrood’s Economy and Fair Work Committee heard from Bryan Hepburn, the operations manager at DFDS Group, who is based in Shetland.

Mr Hepburn set out the challenges of exporting fish to Europe since new rules were introduced and with the knock-on impact of the pandemic – warning “the extra time that everything takes” has added to the issues.

He said: “All our goods like the fish and mussels are all perishable and they lose their value every day they are delayed getting to market and the market is primarily in mainland Europe.

READ MORE: Scotland's £9bn Brexit blow as UK suffers exports drop since leaving EU

“So we struggle getting everything down there. Now we can just about get across the border into Boulogne before we run out of time. We used to be able to do down to Spain and the south of France – so that’s had a knock-on effect for our exports.”

Mr Hepburn warns that “people just weren’t prepared” for the changes, adding that there was “a great cloak of ignorance” from some smaller customers.

He added: “A lot of the guys that used to pick things up in Europe have just stopped doing it and they’ve now because of the driver shortage in Europe, they’ve been able to do that.

“They just make their money in the UK without having to go abroad. It’s just because, frankly, of the hassle of having to get across the border and back again with goods.”

Mr Hepburn told MSPs that the uncertainties for businesses and customers over a range of things including VAT “creates unnecessary hassle”.

READ MORE: SNP attacked for ignoring lorry crisis that could 'kill' Scottish economy

MSPs were also told of the ”dismay” from freight companies over new customs controls at the UK border which will begin in the new year.

A requirement for full customs declarations on goods coming from the EU to the UK will start on January 1, with further post-Brexit border controls being phased in later in the year.

Robert Windsor, of the British International Freight Association, said the new changes coming in force on January 1 are “very significant”.

He added: “In effect, you are seeing the UK reimposing full customs controls on all goods coming from the European Union into the UK.”

One of the changes will be a need for pre-notification of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods, covering products of animal origin.

Mr Windsor added: “It is quite a lot of bureaucracy to go through.

“My view and the association’s view is these are more significant impacts on the UK as a whole than what we saw on January 1 this year.”

Mr Hepburn was also asked about the changes – stressing he hoped the changes will not lead to bottlenecks at ports which he has experienced recently.

Seafood being transported to continental Europe from Scotland may be affected, he said, while DFDS is working with its customers to ensure they know about the new rules.

He added: “We’re actively preparing and we’re hoping that we’re going to be ready.”

In September, the UK Government said it was delaying implementing a number of border controls in response to the pandemic.

Requirements for export health certificates were pushed back to July 2022 after originally being scheduled for October this year. New customs rules will take effect from January 1.