THE seafood industry north of the Border faces a £93 million black hole over the next six years because of Brexit, it has emerged.

Scotland was to be handed €107m from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) but the financial support is now at risk following the referendum result to leave the EU.

The value of subsidies in jeopardy was highlighted in a parliamentary answer by the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing.

He also revealed that £77m of EU investment had created or safeguarded 2,000 jobs in the seafood sector since 2007 and that the Scottish industry was a substantial beneficiary of the EU scheme and on course to receive just under half of all the money earmarked to the UK by 2023.

Seafood exports to the EU were worth £438m last year, more than 60 per cent of all Scotland’s food exports to Europe.

“Scotland’s food and drink industries are a prime example of the benefits of trading without barriers across Europe – and seafood is by far our largest food export,” said SNP MSP Emma Harper.

“Without tariff-free access to trade with the EU, rural Scotland would risk losing vital trade that sustains thousands of jobs as well as the EU investment that supports our seafood and agricultural industries.”

One leading industry figure said the EU cash played a vital role in the food and drink sector, which he believed was already experiencing a downturn because of the shock Leave result on June 23.

Ryan James, chairman of the Glasgow Restaurant Association, and owner of The Buttery and Two Fat Ladies, said a considerable amount of EU funding had been spent establishing a new fish market in Glasgow which supplies seafood to retailers and restaurants across the west of Scotland.

“Brexit is a waking nightmare for us in many ways. A considerable amount of the EU money goes towards investing in infrastructure supporting the seafood industry,” he said. “The new Glasgow fish market was aided considerably by European money and that’s where most of the fish and seafood supplies come from, both from Scottish waters and around the world.”

James said the cost of fish coming from outside the UK was already increasing because of the fall in the value of the pound since the EU referendum. “In terms of my business, there is a real sense of shock and disbelief and edgy behaviour which stops people from spending money on big-ticket items such as going to restaurants. There are restaurants opening up all the time in Glasgow but I don’t think the traffic is building as quickly as the units are opening which is not great for the long term. I can see another recession coming. Trade is definitely down on last year and I believe there is a direct correlation with Brexit.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), said: “Market changes on Brexit will definitely present a challenge. However, we should not imagine it will simply slam the EU markets shut – trade is a two way thing, we will continue to produce the world-class products and people will continue to want them.”

He added: “There is much in Brexit that will be a real challenge, including reworking markets but we must focus now on the opportunities, which for the fishing industry of Scotland are overwhelmingly positive.

“Anxiety is understood, but it must not cause us to lower our heads and lose sight of the grand prize.”

Meanwhile, the SNP are calling on the Tories to “put their differences over the EU aside” and outline their plan for Brexit – following two months of inaction at Westminster since the referendum vote.

Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s spokesman on Europe, spoke out days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met up to 500 EU nationals living in Scotland who are worried about their future legal status.

Sturgeon has also brought forward £100m of infrastructure projects to help protect the Scottish economy from the expected downturn.

“It’s almost 60 days since the referendum result was announced and we are still none the wiser as to what the UK government’s Brexit plan is – EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living abroad still face uncertainty, our economy has taken a massive hit and the Bank of England predicts that Brexit will cost 250,000 UK jobs.”

Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith yesterday urged Prime Minister Theresa May to begin formal negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union “as soon as possible”.

The former cabinet minister accused Remain supporters of trying to delay the triggering of Article 50 – marking the start of the formal two-year leaving negotiations – in the hope it can be put off indefinitely.