NFFO warns of SNP fish quota grab

FISHERMEN in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have expressed ‘mounting alarm’ that concessions granted to Scotland in the wake of  promises made during the referendum campaign will be at their expense.
Tony Delahunty, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), said: ‘There is clearly a strong momentum to give Scotland more self-government.
‘Where we have a problem is in those places where those concessions adversely affect UK fishermen outside Scotland.
‘The list of concessions under consideration includes fisheries, and in the past the SNP Government has shown that it has no qualms in disadvantaging fishermen in other parts of the UK if it suits their political agenda.
‘The NFFO is calling on its own politicians to stand up for us when fishermen south of the border stand to be disadvantaged.’
There are two main items on the SNP shopping list which, the NFFO claim, if accepted would have direct and adverse consequences for British fishermen outside Scotland: a bigger say at the Council of Ministers in Brussels and direct control of ‘inalienable’ Scottish fishing quotas.
The SNP has said: ‘In areas such as fisheries, where Scotland has the predominant interest within the UK, Scotland should have the lead role at Council, where appropriate.’
Mr Delahunty said there must be no question of ceding further influence at European level in the Council of Ministers.
‘The Scottish minister can already be invited by the UK minister to speak on issues with a particular Scottish dimension. That is quite sufficient.
‘To give Scotland more formal powers would be constitutional nonsense and a grave mistake. It would set an unwelcome precedent but more importantly, it would create a democratic deficit.
‘The UK fisheries Minister, when he speaks in Council, is answerable to, and held accountable for his actions by the Westminster Parliament, which is elected by the whole of the UK.
‘A Scottish minister only holds a mandate from the Scottish electorate. To give the Scottish minister more formal authority, or “lead role” would break that important democratic mandate and disenfranchise our members. We could not tolerate that.’
He added: ‘Every effort is already made to accommodate the aspirations and concerns of all UK fishing interests in international negotiations. To give Scotland a bigger say could only be at the expense of the rest.
‘Neither should the claim that assumption Scotland is predominant in fishing be taken at face value. More bulk may be landed in Scotland but it is a plain fact that the rest of the UK has more fishing boats and more fishermen than Scotland.
‘Their interests should not be ignored in the post-referendum scramble. It would be a travesty if these UK interests were sacrificed to buy political calm in Scotland,’ he maintained.
He also pointed out that the SNP was demanding that Scotland’s share of fishing quota should be inalienably held in Scotland.
‘The SNP Government likes the flexibility to transfer quota into Scotland from other parts of the UK (indeed at present parts of the Scottish fleet would barely be viable without such transfers.)
‘But they want this to be a one-way valve, which would clearly put other UK fishing interests at a disadvantage.
‘The SNP stance on NFFO quotas is strong on rhetoric but lacks equity or credibility. Scotland already (in 2008) tried to ring-fence “Scottish” quotas in a way which would have disadvantaged other fishermen in the UK.
‘That attempt was blocked for very good reasons and it is important that in the atmosphere of post-referendum concessions, that our fishing rights are not given away to Scotland under similar guise.’
Summarising the NFFO case, Mr Delahunty said: ‘The current level of devolution of fisheries regulation is not without its challenges.
‘In many ways it adds a new level of complexity into an already convoluted area. However if the SNP’s wish list for fisheries was accepted, it would put a disadvantage other UK fishermen.
‘We cannot accept that and we call on our politician to defend our industry from an asymmetrical deal at to the disadvantage of fishermen in the rest of the UK.’