THREE years since it took effect, businesses up and down Scotland are still reeling from the continued chaos and price hikes they say are caused by Brexit.

Scottish firms have told us they are losing out on huge amounts of trade with the EU while dealing with lost deliveries and a smaller customer base.

The UK Government has insisted Scotland now has access to a market more than 10 times the size of the EU.

But proximity to Europe and a strong trading history means many Scottish firms have pre-existing links with their customers across the English Channel.

Hillhead Farm Shop

One Scottish shop told us they had lost nearly half of their business since Brexit.

Stirling-based Hillhead Farm Shop, which used to ship fresh haggis to Europe, was forced to stop all trade with the continent when Brexit took effect.

The EU accounted for some 40% of the business’s trade but Alasdair MacPherson, who owns the firm, said that Brexit put an end to that, as it meant the food often going bad before it reached European dinner tables.

The store has been selling haggis to Europe for more than 13 years and January is usually the best month for the firm.

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“But when Brexit came along it just halted our trade,” MacPherson said. “And then along came Covid which halted all gatherings.

“You’re talking £50,000 in haggis in January alone being exported to the EU before.

“We were really excited for this year to get fully back after Covid but we just can’t send it. It just gets held at customs.

“We don’t do a lot throughout the year so for a wee business like ours that is a lot.

“We just weren’t expecting to get this kick in the b**** with the EU. The perishable industry exporting to the EU is finished.”


But it’s not just perishables that are suffering. Elizabeth Carnahan also relied on European trade for her cosmetics firm in Falkirk.

After the UK left the EU, her business with the bloc plummeted by more than 60%. She was then forced to sack half of her staff, now only employing four people.

She told us: “I used to sell loads of different cosmetic chemicals across Europe, but because of rules of origin, I’ve had to cut back my product line so that now I only sell things that are manufactured in the UK.

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“That cut my product line back from more than 400 varieties of things to just fragrances.

“My business is so niche that there’s not enough business in the UK to support me and especially because a lot of people who used to buy from me have gone out of business due to high costs.

“My customer base in the UK was never big enough to support me and even that has dropped, now it’s only a third of what it used to be.

“There just isn’t much business left so we’re just limping along the best we can.”

Laid Back Bikes

As well as exporting to Europe, some firms are struggling to import from the continent.

David Gardiner owns a specialist bike company which imports nearly the entirety of its products from Europe while selling almost exclusively within the UK.

According to Gardiner, Laid Back Bikes has suffered from higher prices and longer delivery times which is seeing him spend more time filling out forms and less time selling bikes.

The National: David Gardiner said he wanted Scotland back in the EU's single marketDavid Gardiner said he wanted Scotland back in the EU's single market (Image: -)

While it’s been a record year for bringing in items from the Netherlands, he now gets less profit from each bike.

“We are selling more but that’s because we’re selling a product that people want,” he told us.

“We would have sold more if we didn’t have these barriers. We deal with a distributor in Cambridge and I know their deliveries from the Netherlands have been disrupted as well so we’ve been stuck in a sort of chain waiting on this being sorted out.

“It’s by no means easy money. Every sale has got to be squeezed in and the margins are getting eaten away by the paperwork.

“If you value your time, you don’t want to be doing that all day – you want to be selling more.”

He is now waiting three weeks at a time when ordering from a manufacturer in Italy.

“The transit is very slow in comparison to what it used to be,” he said.

“It’s not perishable goods, but the sooner we get the bike, the sooner we can build it and the sooner we can sell it. Our business is on a two-to-three-week delay and someone has to pay for that lack of action.

“We always wonder, why is it stuck in a warehouse in Belgium for a week? When we get it, we’re relieved it hasn’t been damaged, being on the road for so long.”

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Colin Borland, director of devolved nations at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It’s hard to strip out what overall impact Brexit on its own has had.

“It may be that restrictions on international trade and recruitment have not helped an otherwise very difficult situation, or it could be the case that the changes brought by Brexit have been overtaken by the unpredictable crises of the last few years.”

The UK Government was approached for comment.