NEXT day deliveries could be a thing of the past, food supplies will be squeezed and vital medical supplies could be massively delayed in a no-deal Brexit.

Haulage in Scotland is a vital industry, employing tens of thousands of people and moving millions of tonnes of goods around Scotland, to the rest of the UK and to the EU. Almost 21m tonnes of goods enter Scotland by road each year.

Martin Reid, Scotland director of the Road Haulage Association is very concerned about a no-deal Brexit on a number of fronts. “A no-deal Brexit is going to be chaos for the industry.

“Our members, along with just about every business, are getting more and more frustrated on the lack of clarity and guidance from Westminster in particular.

“What we’ve discovered is that they have a startling lack of understanding about how freight moves across Europe and within the UK, and what’s involved in supply and logistics chains. We have a great deal of concern about how things are going. The levels of administration that are going to be required are still uncertain – we just can’t get clarity on that – but there is going to be an enormous burden placed on hauliers.

Reid highlights the risks to the well tested just-in-time systems in place today: these ensure that goods such as food, construction materials, medicines and individual online purchases arrive when they are needed, where they are needed. He said: “If you are ordering something online it can come to you from anywhere in Europe within 24 hours – and it is coming on the back of a lorry. Anything that causes any type of paralysis to goods getting around is disastrous.

“Our industry is really quick and really nimble. We can adapt to road closures and changes in weather ... but you can’t make contingency plans if you don’t know the parameters of what is about to change.”

Delays are the anathema of the haulage and logistics sector. An analysis by Imperial College London estimates that doubling the current two minute inspection time to four minutes at the port of Dover would result in tailbacks of 29.3 miles, turning parts of Kent into a car park.

Last month the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) said delays of between 10 minutes and half an hour at UK ports and the Irish border would risk one in 10 British firms going bankrupt in a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal outcome presents challenges on several fronts. For example, at the moment drivers and operators use an entirely EU-friendly system: a standard international vehicle operator licence alongside a Community licence. This allows drivers to use a single permit for trips between all EU member states. A no-deal Brexit ends that at a stroke.

The suggestion is that since the Community licences would be useless for the UK after Brexit a secondary permit called ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) could be used, which allows transport through 43 countries on that ticket. But there are only 1224 ECMT’s available for the whole of the UK, about a sixth of the number needed.

Getting a new one is expensive, bureaucratic, and time consuming. In September, a slightly threadbare nine-page UK Government advice note admits: “We expect demand for ECMT permits will significantly exceed supply” and asks hauliers to “consider how many permits they may require to operate internationally” and develop “contingency plans they need to have in place for the movement of goods if they do not receive the number of permits they applied for” including mapping alternate routes or using containers instead of trucks.

Lastly it warns: “Hauliers, and businesses who use hauliers, should consider the implications of possible impacts on supply chains including reduced capacity at ports, reduced reliability and potential higher rates.” There’s a general, vague warning to seek independent legal advice before doing anything.

Another challenge is immigration – over 4000 drivers in Scotland come from the EU. Without them the industry, already in a recruitment crisis, will struggle even just to stand still.

Former SNP MSP Chic Brodie speaks for the Scottish Road Haulage Group. He told the Sunday National: “The impact of Brexit will be a cataclysmic event for Scotland.

“A delaying Customs Union, process and practice at the English ports of Dover, Hull, Felixstowe, currently some examples of outlets for Scottish exports and imports, will impact the fundamental economic infrastructure and export performance of Scotland.

“I’ve spoken to Scottish Government Ministers about the impending disaster that is about to hit Scotland, and I’ll be speaking to them again about how we might mitigate the impact of Brexit.

“Its not just the drivers – it’s the impact on our communities, that’s where Brexit will hit.”