Monday, 22 September 2014

The real fight starts now

Important though the Scottish Independence Referendum was, in some ways, as this blog tried to explain, it was something of a side issue for the Scottish fishermen. The fact is that had Scotland voted YES, had there been an "independent" Scotland within the EU as the SNP proposed it, the fishing industry would not have experienced any changes: within the Common Fisheries Policy plans and decisions would have continued to be taken centrally for political reasons. Scotland would not have been taking part in negotiations with Norway, Iceland or Greenland (well, Denmark on its behalf) and so-called reforms of the CFP would not have changed much in reality.

It is clear from the way the votes fell out that areas of Scotland where fishing is important voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the Union (and not in the European version of it, either). As did, incidentally, areas where oil is important.

So, now that the question of Scotland's role in the United Kingdom has been settle for some time to come, it is time to turn our attention to the real battle: the restoration of powers to where they belong and that is this country and its people.

There will be much on that subject in future postings. This is merely a battle cry.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The new Commissioner

Well, the job has gone to Malta and not to a landlocked country as it could have done so easily. The new Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is Karmenu Vella, 64, a Socialist and long-serving politician. Doesn't that make one's heart lift in happiness? Come what may, Mr Vella will be considerably more important in decisions that relate to the Scottish fisheries than, for example, Richard Lochhead.

What can we find out about Mr Vella?

Mr Vella is a member of the Maltese Labour Party and has previously served in the government as Minister for Public Works, Minister for Industry and Minister for Tourism.

So he is going to know a great deal about fisheries. Of course.

Not that it matters. After all, he has advisers to advise him and he is, one assumes, picking his team, even as we speak. Whether there will be anyone there to speak for the Scottish fisheries is a moot point as his portfolio is to do with the EU and its policies. The UK is only one member state as will be Scotland, should it become "independent" within the EU. The only difference being is that, should such an eventuality occur, it will be a considerably smaller and even less important state. What a jolly prospect. The principles of the Common Fisheries Policy will not change, no matter which way that referendum goes.

In his mission letter to Mr Vella, Commission President Juncker said that he would like him to focus on the following:

◾“continuing to overhaul the existing environmental legislative framework to make it fit for purpose. In the first part of the mandate, I would ask you to carry out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation.

◾“taking stock of where we stand in the negotiations on the air strategy. We need to know whether our approach addresses the right sources of air pollution with the right instruments. In the light of your assessment, we can then see how best to conduct the negotiations.

◾“assessing the state of play of the Circular Economy package in the light of the first reactions of the European Parliament and Council to see whether and how it is consistent with our jobs and growth agenda and our broader environmental objectives.

◾“implementing the recently agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to put the EU firmly on the path of a sustainable fishing sector and fishing communities.

◾“engaging in shaping international ocean governance in the UN, in other multilateral fora and bilaterally with key global partners.”

As we can see, the so-called reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has not altered anything (as this blog has pointed out a few times) - the fisheries sector remains a single one for the whole of the European Union with the ultimate aim of equal access for all member states.

Nothing but an exit from the EU and a restoration of the fisheries policy to this country will change that. Is that more likely to happen if Scotland goes "independent" or if it stays in the Union?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

As Scotland approaches that referendum

We need to get certain things right. This blog, obviously, deals with issues of fisheries only but it is worth considering whether a YES vote would help Scotland's fishermen. In general, we have concluded that it will not as long as the intention is to stay in the European Union, that is the Common Fisheries Policy.

On top of that we do not think that any of the politicians who are taking part in the debate (more or less) understand certain basic facts or even stay true to one opinion. Here is a letter from Tom Hay, Honorary Chairman of FAL on Alex Salmond's changing views:

Alex Salmond’s Policies Past, and Present

In the House of Commons on 02/03/2004 Alex Salmond presented his Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy and to restore National Control to Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He began by saying: This Bill is supported by members of all eight political Parties represented in this Chamber, and is a plea for fair treatment from one of the great natural resource industries of our land, and whatever the fate of this measure today this is a demand which will return until it is successful.

He went on to say that fishermen regard this policy as a charade, a device to rob them of their birthright, and if we look back more than 30 years ago this country accepted the adoption of the CFP in negotiations to enter the Common Market, with its central provision of equal access to a common resource to support that view. Documents released under the 30 years rule show that this was done by the then Government in full knowledge of the possible damage to our own fishing industry.

Sadly however as far as I know he never presented it again.

He said if we were in a position where there were no fish in the sea, we might have to accept reluctantly that nothing could be done to sustain our fishing industry, although it would still be a very good reason for changing the policy that had brought this about. However, that is not the position. Even according to the hotly disputed ICES figures many of our stocks are in a robust condition such as haddock, prawns, herring and mackerel. The sea is teeming with fish but it may soon be empty of our fishermen.

How right he was! As a result of various de-commissioning schemes, 397 vessels have been removed from the Scottish demersal fleet, and during the same period 285 nephrops vessels have also been removed. A total of 682 vessels mostly of our larger ships have been broken up on the eastern shores of the North sea and elsewhere, to satisfy the shameful demands of the EU treaties which state that all Community fishermen must have equal access to, and use of the fishing grounds falling under the sovereignty and coming within the jurisdiction of the member states.

Thus Alex Salmond for years scathingly but rightly attacked the Conservative Party for surrendering our fishing rights and fish stocks to an alien foreign power in Brussels.

Now it appears that the very thing that he vehemently detested has become SNP policy.

In mid-summer 2013 the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, publicly stated that Scotland is an ancient European nation, and that an independent Scotland will continue in European Union membership. Our country has the lion’s share of all the EU’s oil reserves, a huge proportion of the continent’s renewable energy as well as some of the richest fishing grounds.

Would Brussels want to lose such assets when energy security is one of the dominating issues of the 21st Century?. Would Spanish, French and Portuguese fishermen want to be blocked from fishing the lucrative waters in Scotland.s sectors of the North Sea, and West Atlantic, she continued.

The SNP should be thoroughly ashamed that by their actions their declared aim of EU integration at any price will result once again in our fishermen being treated as expendable, merely to satisfy the SNP’s nauseating ambition to get a seat at the top table in Brussels, where they will achieve nothing.

Thomas Hay

Honorary Chairman FAL

Succinctly put, as always. One can only marvel at the lack of logic displayed by the Deputy First Minister in her statements.