14 June 2001

S1M-2006 Common Fisheries Policy

Common Fisheries Policy

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is the European Committee debate on motion S1M-2006, in the name of Hugh Henry, on reform of the common fisheries policy.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

Presiding Officer, and my new colleagues in all parties, thank you very much for the warmth of your welcome. It is much appreciated. I am sure that Brian Fitzpatrick will feel exactly the same. It has been a particular pleasure to see a number of familiar faces round the chamber. I thank, especially, Richard Lochhead for paving the way for me by bringing my home village of Whitehills into his opening remarks.

Let me turn to fishing and the common fisheries policy. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Alex Salmond, whose success in raising fishing to the top of two Parliaments' agendas for the first time in a generation is something of which we should take note. One of the key achievements of the Scottish Parliament has been to provide a platform for precisely such important Scottish issues, which have previously been neglected by Westminster. It is my job to ensure that the fishing industry, in all its diversity, feels as well supported by me as it was by Alex Salmond.

I see another parliamentarian's work today in the European Committee's report. It was some time ago that Allan Macartney, the much-missed member of the European Parliament, proposed locality management of our natural fishing stock. There could be no finer tribute to him than the adoption of zonal management as a key part of the reform of the common fisheries policy. He would have been very proud of this Parliament's support in the committee's report.

What does the fishing industry think of the report? The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association told me yesterday that there is wide agreement in the industry that the common fisheries policy has fallen well short of its objectives in many areas. Looking forward to zonal management, the association said that bringing fishermen to the table, along with fisheries managers and scientists, should result in better-informed, realistic and pragmatic management measures. I say to Tavish Scott that that will allow Mike Park to sit at the top table. I did not hear Tavish Scott say that Scotland's minister with responsibility for fisheries should sit at the top table in Europe, representing Britain, but I look forward to hearing him say that in future.

I am happy to agree with Jamie McGrigor, who spoke yesterday of the need for more local control. We have advocated that for many years. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation's focus is on the need to maintain relative stability; it believes that that should be embedded in European law. Roddy McColl of the Fishermen's Association Ltd—and, of course, the ever-combative Tom Hay—gave evidence to the European Committee. Roddy McColl said:

"It is extremely difficult to get"


"to agree and to speak with one voice ... There are tensions that should be buried for the common good."—[Official Report, European Committee, 30 January 2001; c 946.]

I have every reason to believe that the European Committee's report presents the best opportunity for many years to bring the fishing industry together to be of one mind.

I note that the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development is looking rather lonely—I hope that she is not isolated in the debate. I make a plea to her and to the Executive that, in responding to consultations on the £27 million that is being made available, they give due regard to the need to have a strong fleet available to catch the class of haddocks that are currently swimming in the sea and that we should be catching in 2003. Taking too many boats out of the industry now will benefit only other countries' fishing industries. We have to ensure that we do not fish out the young haddock before then. Against that background, I ask that the door be left open to compensated tie-ups. Keep listening to the fishermen.

To end on a sombre note, we forget sometimes that fishing is not just another industry. It is a way of life and a staple for many communities, and it is a cruel mistress for many of those who put to sea. Today's news that the wreck of the Peterhead-based Trident has been found after 27 years is a poignant reminder of the price that can be paid. All in the industry should be assured that I and my SNP colleagues will fight just as hard as Alex Salmond has always done to represent the fishermen's interests.


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