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December 29th 2020

Three days before the UK leaves the EU, Scotland's salmon farmers, producers of the UK's top food export, are demanding seafood consignments at the Channel crossings are given priority by the UK Government.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, the trade body for Scotland's salmon farmers, say it is imperative that the UK Government delivers on its commitment to prioritise perishable seafood. Channel crossings to France have been chaotic since Sunday 20th December.

The UK Department for Transport has plans to prioritise seafood and day-old chicks, allowing these products to be fast-tracked through the Channel crossing points, by-passing queues of lorries waiting to get into France.

These plans were put together in preparation for the queues and delays ministers expected when the Brexit transition phase comes to end on January 1 2021 (Friday).

But, with queues of lorries taking days to clear in Kent - largely due to the knock-on effects of the French border closure last week and the need to test every haulage driver for Covid - there is an obvious need for the new prioritisation rules to be introduced earlier, the SSPO said today (Tuesday).

Any decision to implement this part of the traffic-management contingency plans would be taken by the Kent Resilience Forum. The UK Government is a major and influential player on that forum.

Tavish Scott, the Chief Executive of the SSPO, said: "We have had nine days of challenges with queues of lorries trying to get across the Channel. That is before the extra paperwork and bureaucratic checks which will be needed after Friday.

"It is imperative that the UK Government acts now to head off the further problems which are likely to take effect from the end of this week. Ministers have to make it clear that they want the prioritisation of seafood and other time-sensitive products to begin as soon as possible. The time for that arrangement is now.

"If this is not done, then Scotland's fish farmers are going to face a second transport crisis. They have already lost millions having been shut out of the European market in the run-up to Christmas. They cannot afford to go through that again. That is why the UK Government has to act now and make it clear that prioritising seafood consignments has to happen without delay."

Notes to editors:

Operation Brock is the traffic-management plan which was designed for the delays and queues expected at the end-of-transition on January 1 2021. It has already been put into practice following the problems which followed the French border closure before Christmas. However, one part of Operation Brock which has not yet been activated is the prioritisation of fresh seafood and day-old chicks.

That decision has to be taken by the Kent Resilience Forum. The forum is comprised of representatives from the Department for Transport, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Border and Protocol Delivery Group (which sits within the Cabinet Office), Highways England, Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, the South East Coast Ambulance Service, Kent County Council, Medway Council and local district and borough councils.

Background Facts:

1. In December around 3,800 tonnes of whole, fresh/chilled salmon worth £28million is exported to the EU

2. Every day more than 152 tonnes of whole, fresh Scottish salmon are en route to the EU. Export valuation of over £1.1 million every day.

3. In addition, other salmon products like fillets, sides of salmon and smoked salmon account for £10 million of sales in December, approximately £400,000 per day of sales.