No chance of Scottish dominance on fisheries at present –

No chance of Scottish dominance on fisheries at present Published:  25 January, 2007

THE absence of an agreed convention between the Scottish Executive and Westminster means there is no chance of the Scottish Fisheries Minister leading at European level to ensure Scottish interests are protected, a leading fishermen’s grouping has said.

Commenting on the leaked report suggesting that Scotland plays second fiddle to Westminster on European issues, the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association adds that a formal arrangement for the Scottish Fisheries Minister to lead in Europe would probably need an amendment to the Scotland Act setting up the Scottish Parliament and could lead to demands from other industries in Scotland to be offered the same privilege based on the precedent set by such a change in the legislation.

In the meantime, the association goes on, the fishing industry feels that it must continue in 2007 to develop the “excellent relations” it has built up with the Scottish fisheries and rural affairs department who particularly in 2005/6 have “worked hard” to set up policies that are relevant to the Scottish industry, although some of these policies are different for fishermen in other parts of the UK.

The association go on:

“ There is no excuse however, for Westminster politicians to suggest that when this issue is raised, as fisheries are devolved to Scotland, Scottish fishermen should simply speak to their own Fisheries Minister.

“It is no small wonder that this apparent confusion is latched on to by some Scottish politicians to promote their own party interests in the run up to the Scottish elections in May. However, looking at the situation from the outside, devolution has actually done little for the Scottish fishing industry in European terms particularly during the annual December negotiations but that is no reason to have the fishing industry to be used as a political football as so many politicians have done in the past both in Edinburgh and especially Westminster.The industry will continue to liase with the Scottish fisheries depaertment Defra in London and politicians of all political persuasions to emphasis the importance of the fishing industry to our fishing communities whilst also promoting

the interests of our fishermen who have taken so much economic pain over the last few years and are only now being able to make a decent turnover,albeit subject to significant oncosts for fuel and quota leasing.

“The fury of the Scottish fishermen in December at their interests not being properly represented in Brussels is both understandable and justifiable.However, we now have to move on.Much work requires to be done in 2007 and Industry and will not allow itself to be sidelined from its duty of developing fishing policy for 2008 and beyond because of parliamentary elections or the interminal demand of the media for new stories. Well established links with SEERAD (the Scottish department) and Brussels will continue to be developed and much stronger links with Defra forged to ensure that the Scottish interest in Brussels for 2008 will not again be compromised or prejudiced. It is recognised that there could well be a new Scottish Fisheries Minister after the May 2007 election with there possibly being a new UK Fisheries Minister following the change of Prime Minister later in the year. However, industry representatives will continue to promote the interests of their fishermen/Industry because Scottish fishermen have a good news story to tell in respect of stock conservation/regeneration.

“One of our main tasks is to convince both Westminster

and Brussels of the value of the conservation steps which

have been taken.We still have confidence that eventually

they will listen and that benefits for the Scottish Industry

will eventually flow.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.