Plans to trial a “quick-to-market” route for vehicles carrying fresh produce that are caught up in continuing delays at the Channel Tunnel have been welcomed by the Scottish Government. It comes after concerns were raised about the impact on Scottish businesses such as seafood exporters to France. The UK Government yesterday confirmed plans for lorries to be parked at the disused Manston Airport in Kent to ease traffic backlogs queuing for Channel crossings.
Under the plan, freight carrying perishable goods will take priority with lorries carrying livestock and fresh produce such as fish and meat, to be sent directly to their crossings, avoiding Operation Stack. Scotland’s Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for action from the outset of this disruption, and so I welcome this move to prioritise key consignments – including fresh produce – through the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover. “At last we are seeing common sense prevail and a recognition of the impact on food exporters.Agreement of this protocol to prioritise a quick-to-market route is real progress and we will, of course, monitor its introduction and effectiveness. “While it is by no means a solution to the wider and ongoing complex situation in Calais, it will be welcomed by Scottish seafood exporters who have seen orders plummet by up to 80% in some categories in recent weeks.”These delays at Calais have had a disproportionate and damaging impact on our vital food processing sector.”
Scotland exported £461 million of seafood to Europe last year and seafood exports are worth five times as much in Scotland as the UK as a whole, according to the Scottish Government. Mr Lochhead added: “The situation in Calais remains difficult and requires a multi-agency response involving both the UK and French authorities. “The Scottish Government remains particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation in relation to migrants and will urge the UK to play its part in a co-ordinated and comprehensive EU plan of action in order to deal with the serious and pressing issues around the migrant crisis.”