A SEAFOOD summit organised by Nicola Sturgeon today focused on long-term growth opportunities, investing in capacity, and building Scotland’s brand at home and abroad.
It was described on Twitter by Food and Drink Scotland boss James Withers as a ‘valuable meeting’, and it involved all sections of Scotland’s fisheries industry, including aquaculture.
Concern has been growing, especially among skippers and processors (though for different reasons), over what will happen once the UK leaves the EU.
Fish processing companies, which rely heavily on EU labour, are worried they will not have enough people to staff the production lines, while vessel owners want to see the UK resume full control of its fishing grounds.
There has been intense criticism of Britain remaining in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy during the two-year transition period.
On the other side of the argument, much of Scotland’s seafood – and farmed salmon, in particular – is exported to Europe and the producers will be looking for a deal which offers continued tariff-free access.
The summit, held in Edinburgh, included representatives from the food and drink industry, port authorities and environmental interests, as well as the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, who attended the discussions, said: ‘The Scottish seafood sector has gone from strength to strength in recent years and is an important part of our economy – but the UK government’s lack of clarity on how the industry will be affected by Brexit is putting the livelihoods of workers and communities at risk.
‘With seafood exports to the EU worth £725 million last year, the industry needs an assurance that it can continue to easily access EU markets.
‘Increased trade barriers and customs delays – as well as question marks over our ability to attract and retain migrant workers and our continued access to EU funding – could all harm the entire seafood chain if it is not addressed sensibly through the UK government’s Brexit negotiations.
‘The Scottish government’s firm view is that the least damaging Brexit would involve continued membership of the single market and customs union.
‘However, in the absence of any realistic UK government position, this summit is an opportunity to hear the seafood sector’s concerns.’
Picture: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon