A TRIAL system designed to limit post-Brexit paperwork for fish exporters has been halted in a blow to Scotland’s salmon industry.

The digitisation of paper health certificates required for all fish and chilled food being exported to Europe was intended to save traders time as well as up to £3 milllion on paperwork.

But companies involved in a pilot scheme for almost two years have been told by the UK Government that it will end, with no mention of any replacement.

An official wrote to them: “Whilst moving to a fully digital service for export health certificates remains our ambition, we are planning to bring the current exercise to a close.”

The fishing industry had welcomed plans to reduce paperwork. It was hoped the new electronic certification system could be introduced in the UK and then in other ports across Europe, including in Ireland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

READ MORE: John Curtice gives verdict on SNP's position in Scottish polls

Salmon Scotland has said companies have now been left with ongoing red tape costs and has urged the UK Government to act quickly, given the impact of the extra paperwork and potential delays on perishable foods.

Tavish Scott, the chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “We have been informed of a further delay to the introduction of an end-to-end digitised export paperwork system, which leaves salmon companies with ongoing red tape costs which have already been racking up for more than two and a half years.

“Farm-raised salmon is the UK’s largest food export, and we need governments to reduce the burden on our sector so that we can grow sustainably, produce more nutritious food, create highly skilled jobs, and boost the Scottish and UK economies.”

The organisation says the salmon industry is worth £760m to the economy but other sectors selling chilled food could have also benefited from the digital certification.

Scott added his members were disappointed with the length of time it was taking to develop the online system and were ready to volunteer to help the Government test any new systems it was developing.

The delay comes days after it emerged the UK Government was going to delay, for a fifth time, the first phase of paperwork required for EU fresh food producers that export to the UK.

There have additionally been delays to plans to introduce an alternative to the CE safety label with its own UKCA logo.

A Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] spokesperson said the government was not abandoning the digitisation project.

“As has always been the case, the first pilot is ending with the intention of moving into a second phase of delivering fully digitised certification for exports,” the department said.

“We will begin to test this new and improved service from early 2024, and will draw upon the feedback and insights learnt in the pilots. This will provide the capacity to send digital certificates to the European Union and further afield, delivering more than the original testing programme.”