Scotland politics

Brexit: Paper outlines no-deal scenarios for Scotland

Flags outside Westminster Image copyright EPA
Image caption MPs have rejected the current Brexit plan

The BBC has seen an unpublished document detailing Scotland's plans for handling "worse case" scenarios resulting from a no-deal Brexit.

Public disorder, reduced food supplies and disruption to transport are among the issues examined in the paper.

Agencies, including local authorities, have fed their plans into the document labelled "official sensitive".

The Scottish and UK governments are looking at what might happen if a deal to leave the EU is not agreed in time.

The date set for withdrawing from the European Union is 29 March, however, the current plan on the table has been rejected by MPs at Westminster.

In December Scotland's Brexit minister Mike Russell told MSPs that the government was making "detailed preparations" for a no-deal.

The 15-page document obtained by the BBC has revealed the extent of those preparations.

It is understood to have been produced by Scottish government officials and it said:

  • Police Scotland should plan "for a period of potential significant disruption following EU exit, whether for a deal or no-deal scenario"
  • there may be an impact on the justice system "if there is widespread disorder where the courts may have to extend sittings and hold extra custody courts to cope with disorder"
  • although UK agriculture could produce "enough nutritious food for the population" post-Brexit there would be "less choice for consumers"
  • Scotland's fire and rescue service "could be severely impacted" by shortages in supplies from the EU because of delays at ports.

A Scottish government spokesman said he would not comment on leaked documents.

However, he added that a no-deal Brexit threatened to be "catastrophic for jobs, investment and living standards across Scotland and the rest of the UK which is why we urge the UK government to definitively rule out such an outcome".

'Disrupt daily lives'

Since late summer the UK government has been publishing "technical notices" aimed at providing guidance to the public and businesses on how to prepare for no agreement.

Prime Minister Theresa May says she wants MPs to pass her deal before the March deadline.

During a speech in Stoke earlier this month she said a no-deal Brexit "would cause turbulence for our economy, create barriers to security cooperation and disrupt people's daily lives".

The UK government has contacted 145,000 businesses which trade with the EU urging them to be ready for a no-deal and following last year's Budget a further £500m was earmarked for the UK to prepare "for all scenarios". In all, some £4bn of public money has been ploughed in to Brexit planning.

What does the document say?

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The availability of food supplies was addressed in the document seen by the BBC

Food - UK Food Security Assessment (published by Defra) assesses the potential of UK food production to feed the population in an extreme scenario. It concludes that in such an event (no access to trade) UK agriculture has calorific potential and ability to produce enough nutritious food for the population, albeit a restricted diet with less choice for consumers.

"Maximising calorie production would require a dramatic reduction in livestock production with all crop production used for human food, where possible instead of animal fees."

Health - "Focus is on whether UK/Scottish stockpiling is required. Key issue is that some supplies are very short life and won't withstand any delay in distribution (radio isotopes/organs for transplant/blood plasma) Other supplies might be fundamental to saving lives, and with no viable alternative, and their supply therefore must be guaranteed."

"Any difficulties being experienced by the social care sector (whether this is financial or supply-related) have the potential to impact on health provision, and in particular hospital settings."

"The behaviour of the public and the impact of EU exit on both physical and mental health could put pressure on the health service. Public communications is important in this space and needs to carefully tailored to audiences."

Police and courts - "There is a need for Police Scotland to plan for a period of potential significant disruption following EU exit - whether for a deal or no deal scenario."

"There may be an impact of possible non-availability of police to maintain order in the courts if they are elsewhere (NI border for example). In addition, there [could be] impact on the courts if there is widespread disorder where the courts may have to extend sittings and hold extra custody courts to cope with disorder. The courts are aware they need to respond to these sorts of scenarios which may occur at any time."

"There may be additional capacity required in prisons if there is widespread disorder and if there is a problem with capacity in the courts."

"In line with police forces across the UK, Police Scotland is basing its current planning on the 'Reasonable Worse Case Scenario' protest or disorder in Scotland and requested support to UK policing for a period of six months."

Water - "We are working with the water industry via Water UK, other devolved administrations, Defra and regulators to ensure supplies of chemicals to the water industry are maintained in the event of a no deal Brexit."

"There is now a clear understanding of the chemicals used, what chemicals can be stock-piled, where the chemicals are manufactured and the supply routes used. A UK water sector plan has been agreed by ministers at Defra and the DAs. Ministers have agreed that the overall risk rating is reduced to low likelihood of disruption and, should a major problem occur with the import of chemicals there would be a medium impact."

Energy - "We are in discussion with BEIS and transport colleagues to gain a fuller understanding of the UKG planning assumptions for energy and fuels and how they relate to existing mitigation and restoration plans. BEIS have highlighted no high risk issues to date and work in ongoing with industry to identify key consumables."

Fuel - "SG officials are participating in workshops and meetings, as required, to ensure that plans are put in place. The issue of transport fuels availability was raised by SG at one session, and DfT stated that thee is no expectation of a reduction in the production for transport fuels but thee would be localised issues for fuel supply as a result of traffic congestion as per UKG planning assumptions."