London: The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has demanded that Prime Minister Boris Johnson pay billions of pounds in compensation to Scotland for the mounting costs and disruption of Brexit.
Brexit has strained the bonds that tie together the United Kingdom: England and Wales voted to leave but London, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators in Edinburgh. Credit:Getty Images
The SNP, which wants independence for Scotland and is pushing for a second referendum, said Scottish fishermen faced grave disruption due to Brexit.
Johnson's Conservatives "must apologise to Scottish businesses and pay compensation to Scotland for the long-term damage they are doing to our economy – costing us billions in lost trade and growth," said Ian Blackford, the SNP's leader in the British parliament.
Blackford cast Brexit as "an unnecessary act of economic vandalism, which has been inflicted against Scotland's will".
"The UK government must now provide an urgent multi-billion package of compensation to Scotland to mitigate the lasting Brexit harm done to Scottish businesses, industries and communities," he said.
Many Scottish fishermen have halted exports to European Union markets after post-Brexit bureaucracy shattered the system that used to put fresh langoustines and scallops in French shops just over a day after they were harvested.
Fishermen across Britain have accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of betrayal after he previously vowed to take back control of British waters. With little new control and little access to customer markets, many are in despair.
Scots voted 55-45 percent against independence in a 2014 referendum, but Brexit and the British government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for secession, with most polls showing a majority now favour breaking away.
In the 2016 Brexit referendum, Scotland voted 62-38 to stay in the European Union while the United Kingdom as a whole voted 52-48 to leave.
Scotland's biggest logistics provider, DFDS Scotland, said on Saturday it would halt exports to the European Union through one of its main services until at least Wednesday.
Previously, the company had said it would take until Monday to resume its "groupage" export service – which allows exporters to ship multiple products in a single consignment – while it tries to fix IT issues, paperwork errors and a backlog of goods.
The extra delay represents another blow for Scottish fishermen who this week warned that their businesses could become unviable after Britain shifted to a less integrated trade deal with the EU at the turn of the year.
Scotland harvests vast quantities of langoustines, scallops, oysters, lobsters and mussels from sea fisheries along its Atlantic coast, which are rushed by truck to cater to European diners in Paris, Brussels and Madrid.
The introduction of health certificates, customs declarations and other paperwork has added days to delivery times and hundreds of pounds to the cost of each load, undermining a system that used to put fresh seafood into French shops just over a day after it was harvested.
DFDS said it was painfully aware of the strain faced by its customers, despite making significant progress in addressing the problems.
"The backlog is greatly reduced but every step of the customs procedure is taking longer than anticipated and capacity is consequently reduced," DFDS said in a statement. "Despite our extraordinary efforts it is clear we need to further suspend the Groupage Export Service, which includes smaller consignments of fish and shellfish, until Wednesday at the earliest."
The company said it would add staff on Monday to prepare for a full service and it stressed the importance of its customers having 100 per cent accuracy on all paperwork.
One exporter, SB Fish, said new trade obstacles since the start of the year had paralysed its fleet of 15 boats, each with a crew of three or four – affecting around 50 families.
"All our boats have been asked not to go out fishing till we have our hauliers back doing exports," the company said.
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