On the one hand, it is entirely praiseworthy of the Scottish Assembly to have a debate about the Common Fisheries Policy. On the other hand, it must remain a frustrating exercise, though the Assembly Members seem unaware of that, because there is very little they can do about it, beyond hoping that the so-called reforms will somehow benefit Scotland. Then there is the problem, which we face with most of our politicians, whether they are in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast: there seems to be a remarkable lack of knowledge about the subject.
Take this exchange, for instance:
The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead) says during his introductory comments:
Ever since the Tories deemed our fishing industry expendable, took us into the common fisheries policy, and gave away our fishing rights into the bargain, Scotland’s fishing communities and our fish stocks have paid a heavy price.
Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con) intervenes:
Will the member check his history? He will then realise that although we became party to the common fisheries policy under the Thatcher Government in 1983, it was as part of an agreement that was signed in 1978 by the preceding Labour Government.
Sigh. They are both wrong. This country (all of it, not just Scotland) had the CFP foisted on it during the negotiations for the entry into the EEC (or Common Market as some people prefer to call it), using completely illegitimate references to Articles that allowed for a common market in trade not a common area for fishing. [Even the European Movement kind of acknowledges that in the summary linked to above.]
Do these people not know about Regulation 101/76, the one that lays down "a common structural policy for the fishing industry"?
No, I suppose they do not. Clearly they also do not know that it was not till 1992 that the CFP became part of the treaties, specifically, the Maastricht Treaty, where Article 38 in title II that deals with Agriculture stated:
The common market shall extend to agriculture and trade in agricultural products. "Agricultural products means the products of the soil, of stockfarming and of fisheries and products of first-stage processing directly related to these products.
Hey presto, the Common Fisheries Policy was now part of the treaty and not to be removed except by unanimity.