Scottish Government looks to help Calais exporters
Cross-channel services between the UK and France have been interrupted in the last few days as migrants storm the Tunnel in a bid to get to Britain.
With lorries left parked on the motorway, Scottish firms who sell in Europe have been severely impacted - with the seafood industry particularly badly affected.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead is meeting exporters to see if there are any other ways they can get their products to customers on the continent.
Nine people have been killed attempting to cross the Channel in the last month, according to Eurotunnel.
Some 2,000 attempts were made to get to the tunnel on Monday and 1,500 more on Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday morning, the operator said.
The British and French governments have pledged to increase co-operation and bolster security, with 120 additional French police officers deployed to try to stem the tide.
But the latest breaches raised fresh calls for the Army to be sent in to tackle the escalating crisis.
Kent Police have implemented Operation Stack, where long queues of lorries are parked on the M20 when cross-Channel crossings are disrupted, and it is expected to last into the weekend.
Mr Lochhead said that industry’s “preferred option is to sort out what is happening at Calais”, adding that “of course we rely on the UK Government and the French authorities to do that”.
But he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We are going to look at all the options with the industry, that’s part of our discussions today.
“There is no easy option but we will do what we can because we want to leave no stone unturned to try to minimise the cost and impact on Scottish sectors.”
He said the Scottish seafood sector had been particularly affected, saying: “That’s a sector that relies on the markets in the continent and they have to access these markets through Calais and the Channel Tunnel and the ferry terminals, and it’s a product that’s got to reach customers in a fresh condition and on time.”
Mr Lochhead warned that companies could be at risk of losing European customers if the disruption goes on much longer.
He said: “There are bigger problems around the corner if this is not sorted out in the coming days, and of course the more days that go by the more it looks like this is something that is not going to be solved in the next few days, it could be a long-term issue, in terms of the migrants issue.
“That’s why the Scottish Government is making the strongest representation to both the Prime Minister and the other relevant UK ministers to do what they can to sort this out.
“The longer this goes on the more of a price our exporters in Scotland are going to pay.”
He added: “This is definitely an issue for the UK Government to sort out with the French authorities but in terms of the Scottish Government’s action we are speaking again to the industry today, there will be a meeting with representatives from the seafood sector and exporters to see what practical steps we can take to help the industry get through this.
“There’s a number of issues we are discussing with the industry at the moment, there’s the option of alternative routes, albeit the sector says they are particularly costly, but we do have to look at them, and the industry wants to speak to us about that, so we’re going to have to look to see what alternative routes there are to get to market.
“There’s also the issue that the industry will be looking for more cold storage because they can’t export their seafood they will have to freeze it and store it until they can get the markets open again.”
The Scottish Government considered the problems at Calais at a resilience meeting yesterday, which both Mr Lochhead and Deputy First Minister John Swinney attended.
Mr Swinney said: “Scottish businesses cannot continue to lose money and orders, and we have already asked the UK Government to prioritise exports of perishable fresh produce and I once again call on them to deliver a system which does just that - the Scottish Government stands ready to help in any way that we can.”