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Seòmar agus comataidhean

Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee

Response to the Committee's consideration of subordinate legislation

Letter to the Convener from Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, on 8 November 2021

Dear Finlay,

Thank you for your questions on behalf of the Committee for Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment. Please find my answers below.

1. What is the Scottish Government’s position on the UK Government’s most recent announcements and if/when it is likely to see further SI notifications or SSIs implementing additional delays? If this information is not yet available, I ask you write to the Committee at an early opportunity, advising of further instruments and setting them in the context of these broader changes.

As noted in my letter to Lord Frost on 15th September 2021, the Scottish Government could not, without substantial discussion and engagement, agree with the plan to move virtually all remaining import checks back to 1st July 2022. However, despite the absence of meaningful engagement leading to the changes announced by UK Government on 14th September, I reluctantly agree that in order to minimise disruption to traders the best course of action for Scotland is to implement the same timeline. There continues to be discussions with UK Government and other Devolved Administrations to progress the specifics of implementation whilst ensuring Scotland’s best interests are protected.

A draft of a UK SI which will extend the end date of the transitional staging period across Great Britain in line with UK Government’s most recent announcement, is currently being reviewed and, subject to further consideration, it is anticipated that it will be notified to the Scottish Parliament shortly. The Scottish Government will also bring forward, later this month, an instrument to remove the current requirement for health certificates to accompany animal products from 1st January 2022. It is expected that further legislative changes may be required as decisions are taken on the technical detail of the implementation of the revised timeline.

2. What is the Scottish Government’s readiness of Border Control Posts, IT systems and trader preparedness at this point in time? Can you assure the Committee that infrastructure and industry are expected to be ready in line with the most recent timeline?

The Scottish Border Control Post programme continues to progress at pace. The programme has, to date, received 15 applications for extension of existing or new sites to be designated as Border Control Posts (BCPs). These will be in addition to the current BCPs within Scotland which were previously designated to receive 3rd Country imports. The Scottish Government will continue to progress all applications in line with legislation whilst working alongside stakeholders to ensure delivery. The delivery of the programme in context of the most recent timeline is deemed achievable.

In addition, the work to progress the new BCP required at Cairnryan is currently paused. This facility is, however, not subject to the most recent timelines. EU goods arriving at Cairnryan will only be checked once the UK Government implements phase 2 of Unfettered Market Access. The UK Government is yet to confirm a timeline for this.

In relation to IT systems, it is a complex landscape. The Scottish Government is working closely with internal and external stakeholders to ensure optimal functionality and compliance. Similarly, trader preparedness is a priority and engagement is ongoing, with stakeholder communications issued on 14th October ensuring industry are aware of the revised timeline.

3. The Committee agreed to ask, however, why the policy note states the Scottish Government considers the provision (checks at place of destination) is “no longer appropriate and insufficiently flexible” as a transitional arrangement given the extension of the transitional staging period.’

The requirement that checks be carried out at the place of destination and accordingly that checks could only be carried out by a competent authority for the place of destination, was more limited as a transitional arrangement than the general provision made at paragraph 8 of Annex 6 to Regulation (EU) 2017/625. That provision allows checks to be carried out on animals and related products during the transitional staging period at any appropriate place, by the competent authority for that place. The Scottish Government considers that with an extended transitional staging period, it was appropriate there should be greater flexibility as to the places where, and the authorities by whom, checks on animals and products could be carried out.

I hope that the above answers the concerns of the committee fully and if I can provide any further information please let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Mairi Gougeon