Thursday, 28 November 2013

Fisheries in an "independent" Scotland

As the SNP's intention is to have an "independent Scotland within the EU", we cannot do anything but put that word in quotation marks. Whether you want to be in the EU or not (and we do not), that is not independence, merely membership.

On Wednesday the White Paper, Scotland's Future - Your Guide to an Independent Scotland (not forgetting our proviso) was launched. Also to be found on the Scottish Government's website.

Chapter 8 deals with Environment, Rural Scotland, Energy and Resources, the first two of which entirely and the last very largely are EU competences, so the role of the "independent" Scottish government and parliament will be to implement those directives, regulations and decisions.

Fisheries comes under that heading, too. (See p. 282 in the pdf document or you can download it as an e-book but you will still have to find p. 282.)

In 2012, Scotland accounted for 87 per cent of the total value of UK landings of key stocks, representing 37 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of these stocks available to the EU. However, Scotland receives just 41 per cent of the European Fisheries Fund allocation to the UK, despite having a far higher share of both the UK sea fishery and aquaculture sectors. As a result of being a low priority for the UK in EU negotiations, Scotland receives just 1.1 per cent of European fisheries funding despite landing 7 per cent of the European Union’s wildcaught fish310 and accounting for more than 12 per cent of EU aquaculture production. Scotland is the world’s third largest salmon producer with 83 per cent of UK aquaculture production by volume.

Our fishermen need a voice at the top table in Europe. Despite two thirds of the UK industry being based in Scotland, Scottish Ministers have not been allowed to speak on behalf of the UK in Europe, even on occasions where the interest is almost exclusively Scottish. This means that Scotland’s representatives – who are closest to the needs of the Scottish fishing sector – are not able to ensure that their voice is properly heard.

Which is all very well but a couple of things seem to have been neglected: Scotland's voice is not going to be particularly strong as it will be a small member of the European Union with very few votes in the Council; and, secondly, many of those problems go beyond the EU and Scotland as a member state will not be taking part in negotiations with Norway or Iceland as the EU will be doing it on the country's behalf.

There is a great deal more of the same but those two problems are not even mentioned, let alone responded to. Just how will an "independent" Scotland ensure that it gets anything at all out of the negotiations within the EU where decisions are taken by 28 countries and how will it ensure that its interests are adequately represented in international negotiations? After all, it is not going to be like Norway.

Here is the list of priorities for action:

Our priorities for action

If in power after the 2016 election we will:

■■ prioritise the needs of the Scottish fishing industry and aquaculture in European negotiations

■■ protect Scotland’s fishing quotas, preventing fishing quota being permanently transferred outside Scotland and safeguarding Scotland’s fishing rights for future generations

■■ use Scotland’s fishing levies to promote Scottish seafood. In an independent Scotland the industry’s levies will remain in Scotland to support the Scottish industry’s objectives and priorities for our catching, onshore and wider seafood sectors,

We are sorry to have to point out that whoever wrote those words does not even begin to understand how the Common Fisheries Policy functions, let alone what its purpose is.


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