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No guarantee of Scottish medical supplies in no deal Brexit, Mike Russell warns

MSP Mike Russell - Image credit: Holyrood

No guarantee of Scottish medical supplies in no deal Brexit, Mike Russell warns

The Scottish Government’s Brexit secretary says he “can’t absolutely guarantee” that all medical supplies will be available if the UK leaves Europe with no deal in October.

Constitutional relations secretary MSP Mike Russell said Scotland had worked with the UK Government before the March 29 deadline, to ensure most medication would be available for between three and six months in the event of no deal. However, he said arrangements had not yet been finalised for the possibility of leaving on October 31 without a deal.

He said it would be “very difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee the continuity of supplies” if there was a no deal Brexit.

“A no deal would result in a substantial increase in unemployment, very quickly. It would result in businesses closing down, problems with the food chain, problems with the supply of essential medicines,” Russell said yesterday, on BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme.

“The further you are down the supply routes – and Scotland is of course at the end of the supply routes – the worse it will be.”

“You’re saying you can’t guarantee that all medicines that people in Scotland use, will be available under a no-deal?” BBC broadcaster Gordon Brewer asked.

“Well you can’t absolutely guarantee that, no,” Russell replied.

“We made arrangements with the UK Government in March that we felt would last for three to six months, which meant that most things would be available and there would be substitutes. One of the biggest jobs that was undertaken was to find substitutes for things that wouldn’t be available, and that was a massive job.”

He said the work was “still to be finalised” because availability of the supply had changed.

“For example, the availability of warehousing has changed, the drug companies themselves are very, very reluctant to be involved in the deep way they were before… But all companies involved in stockpiling took big losses in March, they’ve been drawing down those stockpiles,” Russell said.

Russell said the option of hiring ships to alleviate some of Scotland’s supply issues in the event of a no deal was “still under consideration” by the Scottish Government.

“It’s still an option that we can take up, if we have to take it up. But of course, we still have to find the ships,” he said.

“We really need the UK Government to say we have to have a deal or we have to stay, that is really the only option.”

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