Christmas shortages threat ‘entirely inflicted’ by Tories’ Brexit ‘obsession’ – Nicola Sturgeon

The threat to shop supplies in the run-up to Christmas has been “entirely inflicted” by the Conservatives’ “obsession” with Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs.

The First Minister said: “We, right now not just in Scotland, but across the UK are in the quite incredible situation, unlike other countries across the European Union – so this is not about Covid – of seeing shortages in our supermarkets, of having shortages of other supplies, of having children told there might not be toys at Christmas because of the disruption to supply chains.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, she said: "I really do think Conservatives should take some responsibility because it is entirely inflicted by their obsession with Brexit.

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"Scotland did not vote for Brexit and it was utterly reckless of the Conservatives to plough ahead with Brexit in the middle of a global pandemic.”

Nicola Sturgeon said: "Images of healthy food rotting in the fields are astonishing". Picture: Scottish Parliament TV

Her comments come after the chronic shortage of lorry drivers was made worse by EU drivers and other workers no longer being permitted to work in the UK following Brexit, and delays to driving tests to enable new entrants to qualify as lorry drivers caused by Covid restrictions.

This has been linked to a wide range of supply problems, including food and drink deliveries to shops, pubs and restaurant chains such as Nando’s, and shortages of workers to pick crops.

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McDonald’s even briefly ran out of milkshakes due to shortages.

The long-running shortage of lorry drivers has been made worse by Brexit and the Covid pandemic. Picture: John Devlin

Earlier on Thursday, Coca-Cola reported a shortage of aluminium cans and Barratt Developments said the cost of materials was rising.

The Road Haulage Association has estimated there is a shortage of 100,000 drivers – one in seven of the total needed.

Ms Sturgeon said ministers had raised the supply shortages issue with the UK Government in July and had this week requested a meeting.

She said: “The fact we’ve had to ask for a meeting tells its own story about how urgently or otherwise the UK Government is treating this issue.

“We have warned repeatedly of the damage that would be caused by Brexit.

"We knew that the loss of freedom of movement would be particularly damaging.

"Sadly, we are now seeing staff shortages putting real pressure on food and drink supplies.

"Images of healthy food rotting in the fields are astonishing.

"Frankly, for this whole sorry situation, the Tories should be hanging their heads in shame.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) meanwhile told MPs at Westminster that it was too early to say that supermarkets might have problems getting products onto shelves at Christmas.

BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Christmas is going to be incredibly challenging in some areas.”

But, he added: “Our members that we’re speaking to are not anticipating major problems for Christmas at the moment, but they are also saying that it is so challenging at the moment, it’s really difficult to keep their head above water and maximise what for many businesses is that crucial period in the run-up to Christmas.

“So we’re not in any way saying we’re anticipating major problems at Christmas, but all I can say to you is where we are at the moment, and if we do see problems then that is going to have an impact on products on the shelf.”

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