On May 14, Richard Lochhead had an article in the Press and Journal in which he argued that a "yes vote" in the forthcoming referendum would mean Scotland would no longer be "a bargaining chip" (where do these people get their vocabulary?) but will be able to negotiate directly. It would appear that he has not noticed how little say any country that is part of the Common Fisheries Policy, i.e. of the European Union has in those negotiations unlike, say, Norway, Greenland, Iceland and even the Faroes. This blog has written on that subject repeatedly so all he or his minions have to do is to read it.

As we have not been able to find a link to it, we have reproduced a copy of the article here and hope our readers can still decipher it if they have not seen the original:

Of far greater importance is the response from FAL that was published on May 16:


Yes Vote means “direct voice”

Richard Lochhead Scottish Fisheries Secretary in today’s P&J “categorically assures” the fishing industry that the SNP will not use our fisheries as a bargaining chip to be traded away in any in EU negotiations.

Can the industry accept the assurance that Scotland will have sovereign control over its own destiny and full control over its fishing quota to protect an historic asset for future generations?

There is no evidence to support this assertion but there is overwhelming evidence to show the disastrous effects of the EU fisheries policy over the last 40 years on the Scottish (and indeed the whole UK) fishing industry and their communities.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr Lochhead is being completely disingenuous. Once more, in the desire to have a seat at the top table, he ignores the non negotiable acquis communautaire - the entire body of EU laws, including all the Treaties, Regulations and Directives passed by the Institutions, as well as Judgements laid down by the European Court of Justice.

The SNP’s slogan “Independence in the EU” is an oxymoron outside the minds of the SNP. There will be no sovereign control.

The acquis for fisheries is free access to waters on a non discriminatory basis for all member states and the EU’s exclusive competence in fisheries. That has not been changed by the so called recent reform of the CFP.

The acquis effectively ensures that the objectives of the Treaties regarding the EU fisheries policy are fulfilled - the political end game of an integrated EU fleet, operating in EU waters under a strategic policy agreed at EU level but giving Member States the semblance of authority by delegating to them implementation powers to operate in a regional context.

So in the face of this, what can Mr Lochhead do to protect the Scottish fishing industry? And it’s not just fishing.

In Treaty after Treaty — Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam, Lisbon — ever more power has been removed from the UK (and Scotland as part of it) and channelled to the EU be it the economy, immigration, energy, trade, agriculture, fisheries or social policy.

That erosion of powers will continue if an independent Scotland becomes a Member State of the EU.

Outside the EU, on the other hand, an independent Scotland, as part of EFTA or an EEA Associate membership would actually acquire more freedom of action in its own Exclusive Economic Zone.

Perhaps this time Mr Lochhead and his colleagues will pay some attention to the arguments as they come from people who understand the issues.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Other places, other solutions

We have received an article from Cato Institute, a well-known think-tank in Washington D.C. on the subject of New England fisheries and the appalling problems it faces. Some of it will be very familiar to our readers: 

In a crowded meeting hall in Portsmouth N.H. [New Hamshire] the New England Fishery Management Council voted in January 2013 to recommend drastic new cuts to the catch limits for Atlantic codfish off the New England coast. Over the strenuous objections of local communities and fishermen the council proposed 77 percent reductions in the allowable harvest for each of the next three years in the Gulf of Maine and 66 percent cut in next year's catch on Georges Bank. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration approved the proposed catch limits and other "emergency" measures in May 2013.

New England fishermen and other opponents of the plan fear that the restrictions will doom the centuries-old local fishing industry. Plan proponents, however, counter that the measures are the only way to save the rapidly collapsing Atlantic cod industry. Unfortunately, even these severe new limits may be too little, too late. The latest measures follow years of mismanagement, overly optimistic stock estimates, and misguided fishery policies that failed to align the economic interests of the fishing community with the long-term sustainability of the fishery. In the 1990s, for example, the fishery stock assessments indicated that short-term catch limits and fishing effort reductions could rebuild the fishery stock and ultimately lead to higher long-term yields. Nevertheless, local fishermen and their political representatives vehemently opposed any such reductions.

All arguments that we have heard before together with some indication that decisions are taken for political reasons rather than economic or environmental. The article goes on:

It would be easy to attack new England fishermen for being short-sighted. To do so, however, would ignore the incentives they face—incentives created by the existing regulatory structure. Incumbent fishermen have little incentive to agree to catch reductions because they would be unlikely to capture the full value of the rebuilt stocks. A rebuilt stock would encourage inactive trawlers to resume fishing and active trawlers to increase their fishing intensity.

The authors' proposal may sound radical but, as they point out, this has been discussed for a while and there is empirical evidence to prove that "property rights in fisheries through territorial or catch-share allocations among fisheries participants" can ensure an economically and ecologically sustainable fishing industry.

It is worth reading the whole article, as some of this blog's readers may not have thought about this idea before. However, FAL actually has discussed it and is, as an organization, opposed to the notion. Tradeable Quotas /Transferable Fishing Concessions and was originally in the proposals for the “reformed CFP” but “discarded” after opposition from all and sundry except the Commission. The reason for the opposition is obvious: this idea plays into the hands of those with the biggest economic clout to the detriment of the small communities.