The Scottish government could repurpose the old port at Stranraer as a lorry park in the event of a no-deal Brexit, MSPs have been told.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there were concerns about traffic flows with Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
He also warned that the Scottish economy could be tipped into recession.
The UK government insisted it wanted a deal, and was supporting devolved administrations for exit on 31 October.
Sources within Downing Street have said a Brexit deal was “essentially impossible” after talks between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Scottish government has set out a paper of preparations for the impact of a no-deal departure, which Mr Swinney said was becoming a “significant risk”.
The most recent extension to the Brexit deadline expires at the end of the month, with Mr Johnson vowing to leave with or without a deal.
This is in spite of legislation passed in the Commons which requires him to write to European leaders requesting a fresh extension if no agreement is struck by 19 October.
Setting out the Scottish government’s analysis and plans at Holyrood, Mr Swinney said the latest UK proposals “appear designed to fail” and were “part of a political tactic to shift the blame on to Ireland and the EU as a whole”.
Plans have been made in parts of England for emergency lorry parking in the event of delays post-Brexit, with suggestions of motorways being used as holding areas.
The Scottish plans could see similar provisions at Stranraer, a former ferry port which was last used in 2011 when services to Northern Ireland switched to nearby Cairnryan.
The most recent proposals put to Brussels would see Northern Ireland adhering to EU rules on the regulation of some goods – meaning there would have to be checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, potentially at crossings on the Irish Sea.
Mr Swinney said: “In the event of increased traffic flows between Northern Ireland and Scotland, we are looking to repurpose the disused port at Stranraer to hold up to 300 HGVs to help deal with any potential disruption.”
Other plans to mitigate the effects of a no-deal exit include:
- A £7m fund for councils to support vulnerable communities with housing, fuel poverty or food insecurity
- A flexible resource of 300 public-order trained police officers to deal with “any Brexit-related civil contingency issues”
- A special group to respond to shortages of medicines
- Support for Marine Scotland in case of “disorder at sea”, including “hostile or illegal activity”
Mr Swinney warned that “there is no amount of preparation that could ever make us ‘ready’, in any real sense, for the needless and significant impact of a no-deal outcome”.
He said such a move “has the potential to generate a significant economic shock” which could “tip the Scottish economy into recession” – and cause prices to rise by 5%, which would “push an additional 130,000 people it poverty”.
The deputy first minister added: “There is no doubt that a no-deal outcome would have profound consequences for jobs, investment and living standards across Scotland and the rest of the UK – the UK government should do the responsible thing and rule it out now.”
The UK has its own assessment for the possible affects of a no-deal Brexit, known as “Operation Yellowhammer”.
This includes a warning of significant queues at Channel crossings, particularly in Dover – with contingency plans to hold up to 6,000 lorries at Manston Airfield, near Ramsgate, and thousands more on the M26 and M20 motorways.
Plans have also been made to deal with disruption to food supplies, shortages of medicines, energy prices rises and protests.
A spokesman said the UK government “want a deal and want to talk” with European counterparts, but said any deal “will require movement from the EU”.
He said: “We will be ready for Brexit on 31 October with or without a deal.
“We are also supporting the devolved administrations to get ready for Brexit on 31 October and we have committed almost £140 million to the Scottish government to fund their preparations.”
This position was echoed at Holyrood by Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who said the best way to avoid a no-deal exit was to agree a deal, but that “any responsible government” should be preparing for either outcome.
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour’s Alex Rowley meanwhile agreed with Mr Swinney that any talk of a deal was “disingenuous” in light of the “unworkable solutions” put forward.
The changing fortunes of Stranraer port
- Stranraer bid farewell to its ferries just a little under eight years ago.
- Stena Line moved its operations a short distance up the coast to north of Cairnryan in order to cut costs and reduce crossing times to Northern Ireland.
- It brought to an end the town’s role as a ferry port which dated back about 150 years.
- There has been a concerted effort since then to regenerate Stranraer’s waterfront area in order to make it a marine leisure destination.