Seafood processing body slams UK, Scottish government funding failures
The Scottish and U.K. governments have let the seafood processing sector down in its “hour of greatest need,” with the GBP 23 million (USD 32.1 million, EUR 26.7 million) COVID-19 and Brexit support scheme only partially covering losses and excluding larger businesses, according to the Scottish Seafood Association (SSA), the country's seafood, processing, and trade group.
SSA Chief Executive Jimmy Buchan said seafood processing businesses had only receive payouts accounting for 50 percent of their Brexit-related losses, and the scheme has excluded larger businesses and exporters which are deciding not to ship smaller consignments of seafood because, currently, the cost exceeds the value.
“The truth is that while the financial support that has been forthcoming has been gratefully received, its partial nature means that businesses are being left in great difficulties in their hour of greatest need,” he said. “There have been a lot of promises relating to smoothing the export path post-Brexit, but very few of them have been delivered.”
Buchan further criticized the U.K. government for failing to spell out how the GBP 100 million (USD 139.4 million, EUR 116 million) funding scheme – promised as the Brexit agreement was signed in late December – would work and which businesses stand to benefit.
“This funding package now looks like a convenient headline designed to appease the sector. When will they start taking bids, who will be eligible, when will payouts be made?” Buchan said. “We need to know, but we are greeted with silence on this at every turn.”
Buchan also criticized Scotland's government for not using its devolved powers or funds to help the industry.
“They have a GBP 14 million [USD 19.5 million, EUR 16.2 million] fund, yet there are no guidelines and application process in place. We know only that all projects must be for SMEs and completed by 31 March 2022 – far too tight a timetable for major works,” he said.
Buchan said that both governments need to “step up to the plate” and meet earlier promises, especially in the face of the industry’s mounting troubles.
“This sector is the backbone of many rural Scottish communities and a source of jobs as well as world-class seafood,” he said. “If we don’t support these businesses and jobs, they will be lost to other regions and other countries and they won’t come back.”
SSA has around 70 members from across Scotland’s seafood industry.
Photo courtesy of the Scottish Seafood Association