Scotland fisheries secretary has urged a new UK-wide seafood export task force to offer urgent solutions to issues facing the sector.
Ahead of the first meeting of the Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force, Fergus Ewing said the group, set up by the Scotland Office, must not just be a “talking shop” and should work on fixing issues caused by leaving the European Union.
Announced this week by Scotland Office minister David Duguid, the project is aimed at solving “medium and longer-term export issues”, according to the minister.
The Scottish Government will be represented in meetings at ministerial and official level.
With the first meeting due to take place on Friday, Mr Ewing has urged the task force to streamline export processes, improve IT systems and resolve trade issues with the UK.
“The taskforce must not be a talking shop, it needs to provide urgent solutions and I will continue to fight to make things better for our fishermen and wider seafood sector,” he said.
“These are not just ‘teething problems’ this is an entirely new way of working that is a direct consequence of the way the UK Government handled Brexit and we must look at ways to minimise these impacts.
“This is time critical and the taskforce must look at how we can remove barriers to trade, resolve some of the export issues businesses have faced with scallops and cockles, mussels and oysters, and streamline processes.
“If it is to be effective, it will need the full engagement of UK departments whose systems and processes are the source of much of the frustration encountered by fishermen and processors in all parts of the UK.”
Mr Ewing also said he was “disappointed” that some involved in Scotland’s seafood sector had not been invited to attend the task force, saying: “While I’m pleased the UK Government has listened to our calls for a taskforce to look at the challenges, I am disappointed that several leading people who are directly involved in the sector and have first-hand experience of handling and dealing with the problems have not been included in the taskforce as I had suggested.”
The Scottish Government last week set up a £6.45 million resilience fund to benefit shellfish catchers and businesses.