A SCOTTISH Tory minister has been accused of showing “total contempt” for crisis-ridden seafood firms after he gave an “excoriating” interview on the post-Brexit chaos.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid was invited on BBC Good Morning Scotland to respond to warnings that seafood firms were facing collapse as a result of trade delays.

Asked when he thought Scottish businesses may be able to export as smoothly as they did before Brexit, he stated: “How long’s a piece of string?”

That came after Jamie McMillan, managing director of Lochfyne Langoustines, warned his business is on the brink of bankruptcy.

He explained companies across Scotland have had to stop buying live shellfish because Brexit red tape is preventing them from getting it to markets in time.

“We’ve been screaming for the last eight months that we have to get our produce to market within 12 to 24 hours. Any delays in that process and our shellfish arrive in France dead,” McMillan said.

He explained the firm is losing customers because it is now deemed an “unreliable supplier”, with buyers in France now going to Denmark for langoustines. Increased checks and paperwork, as well as border delays, were cited as the reasons for the delays, which he said now mean it’s easier to export to the Far East than it is to France.

McMillan added that his firm had gone two weeks without being able to sell products to its biggest market. “If that continues for another week we’re finished”, he said.

He pointed out that Scotland Food and Drink had written to Boris Johnson asking for a grace period, which he said was ignored. Duguid insisted it had not been.

Asked to give a message to the Tory minister, McMillan stated: “Stop lying. He’s lied to the Scottish fishing industry for four years. The north-east fishermen are dismayed by what the Tory government have told them.

“They’ve led them down the garden path. Stop lying and get the trade back moving again. Because if not there are going to be thousands of people in Scotland out of business.”

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Asked by host Gary Robertson if he is indeed a liar, Banff and Buchan MP Duguid replied: “No. Next question.”

He denied that the Scottish fishing industry had been promised “sunny uplands” after Brexit, adding: “I don’t, to the best of my knowledge, recall having lied about anything. I strongly refute that accusation.

“If Jamie could be more specific about what I’ve lied about I’d be more prepared to answer that question. If you [Robertson] want to use up the time of this interview about whether or not I lied about something that’s up to you but I don’t think that’s what you wanted to talk about.”

The Scotland Office minister said he did not “underestimate” the problems facing the industry, but rejected the suggestion they all stemmed for Brexit, which he said presented “challenges as well as opportunities”.

Despite having just given a precise description of the issue his business was facing, Duguid urged Jamie to provide “precise details” of what’s causing the delays.

It was put to Duguid that this suggests his government still doesn’t understand what the problems are. The Tory minister rejected that, stating: “The UK Government has been doing everything we can to prepare for the end of the transition period to help businesses across the whole UK, including Scotland.”

He added: “The industry, the UK and Scottish governments, and the EU as well, all need to come together and work on resolving the issues. We’re not trying to pretend there aren’t any issues.”

Duguid was asked when he thought trade would run smoothly again.

“Well, how long’s a piece of string?” he responded. “What I can commit to is the UK Government … we are working day and night in resolving the issues that we know about and that we can fix directly.”

The Banff and Buchan MP’s answers were given as an example of why Scots should “never trust the Tories”.

Deputy first minister John Swinney tweeted: “A contemptible interview from Tory Minister David Duguid on Good Morning Scotland about Fisheries. 'How long will it take to fix the problems caused by Brexit on fishing? His answer – ‘How long is a piece of string.’ Total contempt. Scotland should never trust the Tories.”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry added: “Excoriating interview with @david_duguid on #bbcgms about the chaos in Scottish fishing industry. Now the Tories say everyone knew there would be challenges with #Brexit. So why didn’t we hear talk of a Sea of Challenges rather than a #seaofopportunity?”