SHETLAND Islands Council and other public agencies are preparing to hold a table top emergency planning exercise later this month to test preparations made for the increasingly likely case that the UK is going to crash out of the EU without a deal.
Chief executive Maggie Sandison said senior council officials have been preparing for Brexit ever since the referendum in June 2016, and these efforts have intensified over recent months.
“Shetland Islands Council and its partners have been thinking Brexit ever since the referendum. It’s been part of our risk registers and we have been thinking about what the consequences of leaving the EU means,” she said.
“Over the last six months we have been increasing our focus on Brexit; it’s a standing item on the corporate management team agenda, we talk about it every single week.”
Sandison said Brexit has very much become part of routine emergency and continuity planning and, in an attempt to reassure local people, added that she feels the local authority is as well prepared as it possibly can be in the circumstances.
“We have identified a number of risk areas where we have particular vulnerabilities for Shetland, such as our transport requirements for instance,” she said.
“We are taking this into the national planning processes to make sure that if there are any issues arising around a no deal Brexit that we are continuing to see Shetland getting access to goods should there be shortages at a national level.”
Other risk areas identified by the local authority are:
- Procurement chains for food (schools and care homes), engineering and fuel;
- Uncertainty for staff who are EU nationals;
- Heavy reliance of transport links for export;
- General vulnerability of islands being ’at the end of the line’;
- Sudden demand for health certificates for exporting fish should the UK leave the EU on 29 March;
Sandison strongly advises against individual stock piling adding that the council had been speaking to all its main suppliers and is confident that they have robust plans in place to respond to any shortages.
“If we had concern, clearly, we would need to take suitable steps to mitigate that,” she said.
“But at the moment what we are hearing from our key procurement suppliers is that everybody is planning for this, every single business is thinking about the possible impacts, and feeding in to the national picture.
“I think our biggest risk comes from people starting to panic, I think that we have to believe that if no deal happens we will have plans to cover for that: and we will prioritise if we need to.”
With this attitude in mind she is confident to give reassurances to fish exporters worried that no enough environmental health officers will be in place to issue health certificates on the morning of 30 March should the UK leave the EU without a deal and border controls into Europe have been reinstated.
“We are issuing health certificates for fish all the time for companies that are exporting to China and Africa. If it is required I will make sure that this will happen by re-diverting staff. We know the importance of this,” she insisted.
“If we need to move staff from one area of the council to another, we will do that.”
She added that the local authority was legally required to be prepared for a host of possible scenarios such as weather related disruptions, IT outages or as was the cases 18 years ago, the so-called millennium bug.
“The reality with contingency planning is that you do your best with what you know, and you work on worst case scenarios and we have been doing that planning.”