Proposed changes to European fishing rules could sound the death knell for Scotland’s traditional fishing communities, a Scots MEP has warned.

The European Commission is pushing for reforms to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which could see a system of so-called ‘International Transferable Rights’ (ITRs) introduced.

Such a system would allow wealthy fishing firms in other EU member states to buy up Scottish fish quotas in order to boost their catches.

The move is being opposed by Scots Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, who is senior vice-president of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.

Mr Stevenson will chair a major fisheries management conference in Brussels on Wednesday to debate the issue, which will also be attended by Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead and Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

Speaking in advance of the summit, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Common Fisheries Policy has been disastrous for Scotland’s traditional fishing communities. Micro-management from Brussels has nearly succeeded in strangling the industry.

“However, misguided attempts at reform could do more harm than good.

“In particular, moving to a system of ITRs could sound the death knell for our remaining fishing communities, as wealthy fishing concerns from Spain and elsewhere gobble up Scottish whitefish quotas.

“Not only would this put the fishermen themselves out of business, it would lead to thousands of job losses in Scottish harbours and processing factories as foreign vessels land their catches back home.

“Even if there was a legal guarantee that ITRs would only grant a temporary right of ownership, in ten years the Scottish coast would be devastated and there would be no industry left by the time the rights were restored.”

Mr Stevenson added that he would continue to press new Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, on the proposals to ensure Scotland’s fishing communities were not disadvantaged.