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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S5W-35116
Asked by: Alasdair Allan, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scottish National Party
Date lodged: 9 February 2021

Question

To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting seafood businesses which export to the EU.

Current status: Answered by Fergus Ewing on 10 February 2021


Answer

Given the UK Government’s failure to provide meaningful funding in the timescales needed by businesses, I announced on 5 February a £7.75m package of funding to support the most impacted parts of the seafood sector through the combined impact of Covid-19 and export disruption caused by Brexit. This support comprises:

  • £6.45 million for a Seafood Producers Resilience Fund;
  • £1 million to support ports and harbours;
  • up to £300,000 available to assist the welfare and emergency support activities of the Fishermen’s Mission.

The Seafood Producers’ Resilience Fund will provide support to shellfish catchers, and table shellfish and trout producing aquaculture businesses. These are the sectors we consider to have been most affected by the combined impact of Covid-19 and EU Exit, on markets and exports. They are also critical parts of the most remote coastal communities which are particularly vulnerable to economic disruption. We anticipate that more than 1000 vessels and around 75 aquaculture businesses will benefit from the fund, which is now open for applications.

Further details are available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/seafood-producers-resilience-fund .

We have chosen to focus funding on producers and catchers of shellfish and trout for the table market after careful consideration. These sectors have the clearest evidence of substantial loss and hardship resulting from cumulative impacts but not least the current and ongoing border disruption. We will continue to monitor and gather evidence in relation to other sectors to determine whether further targeted support is required.

In setting eligibility for this scheme we have learned from our experience of previous schemes to ensure that the fund is as wide reaching as possible within the target segments, and also that funding is directed to genuinely active businesses.

Key changes from previous schemes for catchers that we have made include allowing the best year of the past four to be taken into account in calculating the earnings threshold for catchers (in recognition that 2020 was a very difficult year. Businesses will also have to demonstrate that they have landed a single shellfish into the UK in 2020 to ensure that we are supporting active businesses.

The scheme also includes squid given that market has been particularly hard hit by Covid, and does not automatically exclude wrasse boats (which were initially excluded in the previous catchers scheme) in recognition that many of them also catch shellfish as well; so as long as they meet the shellfish target they will be eligible.

For aquaculture, we have sought to include new businesses, which again were initially excluded in the previous aquaculture scheme, and part time businesses who might not have met the threshold from the previous scheme.

Payments are capped to maximise support available to smaller businesses. The maximum any business can get is £45,600 for vessels, £40,500 for aquaculture businesses. The £45,600 cap applies to businesses which own both vessels and aquaculture undertakings.

The whole sector will benefit from our support to ports and harbours, and fishers and their families can access support from the Fishermen’s Mission regardless of which segment they work in. We are continuing to work with the British Association of Ports, and independent harbours, around how best to offer support to address the loss of landing dues, and other sources of income. In protecting ports and harbours we will ensure that this key part of the fishing infrastructure remains viable, and that the whole sector is able to participate in a sustainable recovery.

I remain dismayed by the UK Government’s approach to this vital sector for Scotland. We expect the UK Government to launch its scheme today, several weeks after funding was first announced. It is very disappointing that the UK Government chose not to work with the Scottish Government on more comprehensive support for the sector to ensure funding reaches all those businesses affected by this and that it has sought to override devolution by spending directly in a devolved area.

Businesses are encouraged to consider the support available to them, whether through the Seafood Producers Resilience Scheme or elsewhere. Any individuals facing hardship should contact the Fishermen’s Mission for support or advice: https://www.fishermensmission.org.uk/find-us/ .