Managing the civil contingencies aspects of a no deal UK EU exit on Scotland: planning assumptions

The following civil contingencies planning assumptions are provided as an overview of the potential reasonable worst case scenario (RWCS) should the UK leave the EU with no deal and no alternative measures in place.

These planning assumptions are derived from the UK planning assumptions but have been developed further to identify the Scotland level impacts of a no deal UK exit from the EU. This ensures that as far as possible civil contingency response across the UK is based on a shared situational awareness. The assumptions are intended to inform further thinking by Civil Contingency Category 1 Responders (such as Local Authorities, the NHS, Fire, Police & Ambulance), Government Agencies (such as the courts & the prisons) and Scottish Government policy areas on the potential issues that may arise so that they may be reflected in contingency planning.

The assumptions below are not a prediction of this scenario but are intended to aid planning for this and other less challenging situations. We recognise that the changes resulting from a no deal could be experienced locally across the whole of Scotland but also in varying degrees of intensity depending on the local context. Please note these assumptions will continue to evolve and should be regarded as a working draft. Changes will be communicated to partners.

Concurrent risks

The time of year that the UK is to leave the EU means that there is a greater likelihood of a range of concurrent events happening that may exacerbate or be exacerbated by no deal. These could include hazards such as seasonal flu or severe weather. It is important that you consider concurrency in your planning and make an assessment of your ability to deal with multiple events and what impact this might have on your organisation.

Scottish Government advice for businesses and the public

The Scottish Government and its Agencies have published a range of information to support businesses and individuals prepare for the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Travel, freight and borders

  • the UK level planning assumption for a reasonable worst case scenario (RWCS) is that France will impose EU mandatory controls on day one of no deal and have built the infrastructure and IT system to support a risk based control regime. On day one a significant proportion of HGVs travelling the short Channel straits may not be sufficiently prepared for the new custom controls.  This lack of trader readiness, and the limited space at French ports to hold HGVs, could significantly reduce the overall flow of traffic. This disruption to capacity could last for up to six months before potentially improving as trader readiness issues begin to resolve themselves.  Supply chains for critical sectors would be as affected by this as would other sectors. Disruption to outbound traffic will have a cumulative impact on inbound traffic across the short Channel strait crossings.

    This may lead to the following Scotland level impacts:

    • reduction in capacity on the short Channel straits crossing - resulting in delay to the distribution of goods to Scotland. This would have residual consequences for a range of sectors that rely on just-in-time delivery of crucial supplies such as medicines and medical supplies, animal feed, and food ingredients

    • congestion at the short Channel straits crossing may lead to delays in the export of time sensitive and economically important goods such as fresh seafood. This could also result in animal welfare issues in the transport of livestock

  • UK citizens travelling to and from the EU will be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts. Dependent on the plans EU member states put in place to cope with these increased immigration checks it is likely that delays will occur for UK arrivals and departures at EU airports and ports.  This could cause some disruption on transport services and travellers may decide to use alternative routes

  • the RWCS assumes that UK nationals would lose their EU citizenship, removing rights to residency and essential services including non-emergency healthcare, and will become third country nationals. This may result in a number of UK citizens needing or choosing to return to the UK. For Scotland this number is likely to be proportionate to Scotland’s share of the UK population. Those returning to the UK would do so over a range of timescales but it is likely that those in most acute need, those least able to support themselves financially, to access education  and healthcare services, would arrive in the first months following the UK leaving the EU

  • there may be a large number of UK Citizens living in other UK countries who are no longer eligible for free healthcare and so return to the UK, creating a pressure on NHS services. Vulnerable citizens abroad will be supported by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO considers someone vulnerable when they cannot protect themselves from significant physical or emotional harm, or be protected by others

  • EU Member States will provide emergency life-saving treatment to UK nationals to at least the same extent they do to third country nationals

  • an EU Member State would continue to pay a pension it currently pays to a UK national living in the EU

Disruption of services

  • the RWCS assumes that demand for energy will be met

  • the RWCS assumes that Category 1 responders have Business Continuity‎ plans in place (as required by the Civil Contingencies Act) and that these have been recently reviewed to consider the potential EU-exit impacts

  • the RWCS is that regional traffic disruption caused by border delays could affect fuel distribution. Customer behaviour could then exacerbate any localised shortages. The most significant single risk is fuel supply to London and parts of the South-East                                                                                                                                                                                              

  • the RWCS is that supply of medicines and medical supplies will be impacted by reduced flow rates across the short Channel straits

  • the RWCS assumes that any disruption to reduce, delay or stop supply of medicines for UK veterinary use would impact the UK’s ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks, with potential impacts for animal health and welfare, the environment, and wider food safety/availability and zoonotic diseases which can impact human health

  • the RWCS assumes that there will not be an overall shortage of food in the UK but it is likely there will be a reduction in choice due to border and supply chain disruption. Certain types of fresh food supply will decrease. This may lead to an increase in price. Whilst it is felt that the assumption regarding overall food supply holds true across the UK it is possible that the reduction in choice, particularly for perishable products, may be more marked the further north the end point for distribution lies. The UK growing season will have come to an end and the agri-food chain will be under increased pressure due to preparations for Christmas. There is a risk that customer behaviour will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption

  • the RWCS assumes that low income groups may be disproportionately affected by price rises in utilities and services such as food and fuel

  • public water services are likely to remain largely unaffected due to actions being undertaken by water companies.  The most significant risk is the supply of key chemicals.  The likelihood of a failure in the supply chain is considered low and the impact is likely to be localised.  Water companies are well prepared for disruption; they have significant stocks of all critical chemicals, extensive monitoring of their chemical supply chains (including transportation and all deliveries) and mutual agreements in place. In the event of a supply chain failure, or the need to respond rapidly to other water supply incidents, urgent action may need to be taken to make sure people continue to have access to clean water

  • the RWCS assumes that private sector companies’ behaviour will be governed by commercial considerations unless influenced otherwise

  • the RWCS assumes that some cross-border UK-EU financial services may be disrupted

Information and data sharing

  • the RWCS planning assumption is that the EU will not have made a data protection adequacy agreement with the UK before exit. This could disrupt the flow of personal data due to new legal requirements. In no deal an adequacy assessment could take years

  • as part of this assumption, law enforcement data and information sharing systems between UK and EU may be disrupted in their current form

Demonstrations and disorder 

  • the RWCS is that demonstrations, which may be conflicting, unplanned and short notice, will absorb significant police resource. Historically, these protests have taken place in areas with large populations and established transport routes; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen are assessed as being the most likely seats of any significant demonstration/protest activity

  • the RWCS is that significant requests for mutual aid policing support will be made to Police Scotland through normal National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) channels. Assistance could be requested in any part of the UK including Northern Ireland

  • police are planning in anticipation for the potential increase in demand for public order policing for demonstrations and protests in relation to the EU exit. Currently there is no intelligence to indicate that events will not be law abiding

  • protest events are likely to cluster around larger cities where there have been previous similar demonstrations such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen

  • increased tensions in Northern Ireland as a result of EU Exit arrangements has the potential to influence certain communities in Scotland

  • the approach to managing the mutual aid public order policing implications in the UK will be co-ordinated by NPCC

Remote and rural Scotland

  • many of the issues facing rural Scotland are the same as in urban areas but the solutions need to be different to take account of the widely dispersed nature of rural communities

  • distance from market is a known issue as is appropriate business support as 9 out of 10 of rural businesses are micro-businesses who cannot access current systems. The cost of living can be up to 33% higher in remote rural Scotland than in other parts of the country. Research shows that remote rural Scotland is facing unprecedented levels of depopulation. Rural Scotland tends to suffer from poor physical and digital connectivity exacerbating other problems and making rural and remote rural Scotland particularly vulnerable to the impact of the UK leaving the EU


  • in the absence of an agreement with the EU and/or Norway and Faroes on reciprocal access arrangements, up to approximately 170 EU and EEA nations fishing vessels (based on those that would usually be fishing at this time) could start, or continue to, fish illegally in the Scottish zone of UK waters on day one. November is a busy and extremely lucrative period especially for the winter mackerel fishery, with a value of c£10- £30m a day being removed by EU/EEA vessels. There are no alternative fisheries for the pelagic fleet at this time, and the vast majority of the European share of the mackerel joint stock is taken in Scottish Waters. If agreements are put in place EU/EEA vessels will have continued legal rights to fish in the Scottish zone. A number of Scottish vessels may illegally fish in union waters

  • the presence of EU vessels, legally or otherwise, is likely to cause anger and frustration in the domestic catching sector, which could lead to both clashes between fishing vessels and an increase in non-compliance in the domestic fleet

  • competing demands on Marine Scotland, could severely stretch enforcement and response capabilities, especially in the event of concurrent or cumulative incidents, which are likely to include illegal fishing, safety at sea violations and any disorder or criminality arising as a result of these, e.g. violent disputes or blockading of ports. Compliance assets, as normal, will be deployed on a risk analysis basis, but in the event of large scale non-compliance activity the ability to respond will be limited due to resources available. Marine Scotland will be working with Scottish and UK partner agencies to ensure a coherent and joined up approach to fisheries enforcement across the whole UK, although it is unlikely that additional UK national assets will be available for use in the Scottish zone

Scottish workforce 

  • there will be a significant number of job losses across Scotland due to the loss of market access, increased export costs, or decisions to relocate

  • there will be a shortage of highly skilled workers in certain professions which currently rely on migrant workers – e.g. education and healthcare; public health veterinarians, and we expect to see further pressures in areas that are already experiencing recruitment challenges.  Given the timescales required to obtain these skills levels there may also be limitations to how quickly we can mitigate through our own skills and training interventions, so we need to consider how we can continue to attract skilled migrant workers, but also how we can attract workers from the rest of the UK

  • there will be a shortage of entry level workers, including those with lower skills, those who gain their qualifications largely through work based training, and those in less highly-paid sectors – the loss of free movement is likely to significantly reduce the pool of workers currently servicing sectors such as hospitality, tourism, agriculture, food processing and social care. Wider impacts of the UK leaving the EU, such as a drop in the value of the pound, may also impact of the attractiveness of Scotland as a place to work. While the time to train the indigenous workforce for these roles may not be as lengthy, there are longstanding issues around lack of available workers in some areas and sector attractiveness for some of these roles that would also need to be addressed

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