Border issues won’t cause food shortages, says Nicola Sturgeon

Craig Paton and Emma O'Neill, PA Scotland
·2-min read

Scotland’s First Minister has said problems with freight coming into and leaving the UK will not result in food shortages, but emphasised the issue was “of real and immediate concern” to food exporters.

A ban was announced by the French government on Sunday night of hauliers carrying freight across the Channel after the discovery of a new, more transmissible strain of coronavirus.

But Nicola Sturgeon has warned against panic buying, saying there is unlikely to be food shortages as a result of the stoppage.

Addressing MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said: “I want to stress at the outset that we have no concerns about medicine supplies at this stage.

“And we have no immediate concerns about food supplies. Supermarkets are well stocked. And so there is absolutely no need for anyone to buy more than planned.”

However, Ms Sturgeon added: “Of course, if the situation is not resolved in the next day or so, we may start to see pressure on some fresh produce after Christmas – but that is not a concern right now and I hope it will not arise at all.”

The First Minister also said that the problem was most stark for Scottish food exporters – particularly the producers of seafood.

“This is the peak time of year for seafood exports and the Christmas export trade is now almost certainly lost. This is devastating for our world class seafood businesses and they need our support,” she said.

“We are liaising with the sector on the need for immediate financial support and I also raised the issue of compensation at Cobra yesterday.

“However, what the sector needs most of all is for the UK Government and France to agree a protocol to get freight moving again without delay.

“If that doesn’t happen almost immediately, the sector stands to lose its New Year export trade too.

Meanwhile, James Withers, the chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said the situation was “deteriorating”.

He said: “Contrary to an upbeat assessment from the Prime Minister yesterday, the situation has been deteriorating with a growing backlog of lorries.

“We understand the number of lorries currently parked up in the wrong place in the UK is now in the thousands.

“There has been a very small amount of seafood that was caught in the backlog that has managed to switch to being unaccompanied freight and get to France.

“But the vast bulk of the problem remains and is worsening. The UK Government should be holding a Cobra meeting again today and focusing all efforts on agreeing a protocol with the French authorities.”