Brexit has not delivered any benefits for Scotland’s rural communities, a minister has said ahead of a meeting with the UK Government.
Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon hit out at the UK leaving the EU two years on from the finalisation of a deal to leave the bloc.
Ahead of a meeting of the inter-ministerial group for environment, food and rural affairs – which brings together ministers from the devolved administrations and the UK Government – Gougeon pointed to the impacts of leaving the EU on the food and drink industry north of the border.
“Two years on, Brexit has failed to deliver a single benefit for Scotland’s rural communities, or the countless food and drink businesses that support them,” she said.
“Fragile rural and island communities are bearing the brunt of a hard Brexit, recklessly pursued while a global pandemic has ravaged our society and our economy.
“Scotland’s food and drink sector has been a global success story, providing highly paid, highly skilled jobs, and businesses, often in remote rural and island communities.
“But Brexit has caused labour and skills shortages and created barriers to trade that have harmed many businesses and communities in the short term, with research suggesting a significant risk to their success in the longer term too.”
The Scottish Government has previously called for a 24-month visa for temporary workers to alleviate pressure on the sector.
Gougeon also pushed for the UK Government to engage with the EU to ease the red tape faced by exporting businesses.
“Scottish exporters are also being forced to cope with a mountain of complex, time-consuming and costly customs and borders arrangements,” she said.
“Businesses put in huge amounts of preparation for the new Export Health Certificates introduced this year, but they still face uncertainty around the level of certification needed to ensure valuable seafood exports enter the EU without delay.
“The UK Government must listen to the needs of Scottish businesses and re-engage in good faith with the EU to find pragmatic solutions to the problems still facing businesses, before they – and the communities they support – endure further unnecessary pain.”
A spokesman for the UK Government said: “Our zero tariffs and zero quotas trade and cooperation agreement has allowed us to take back control of our money, borders, laws, and our waters, as well as enable us to strike trade deals with the world’s fastest-growing markets.
“We want to ensure that businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe and to seize new opportunities from our trade deals.
“That’s why – in addition to the £20m SME Brexit Support Fund – we are operating export helplines, running webinars with experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers.”