09 December 2004

S2M-2129 Fisheries

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 9 December 2004

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...


The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2129, in the name of Ross Finnie, on fisheries, and three amendments to the motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start, almost as Alex Johnstone ended, by congratulating Ross Finnie. If on nothing else, I congratulate him on his stamina, as he is the longest-serving member of the Executive to have had the same ministerial responsibility. The vicissitudes of his particularly challenging office have dimmed neither his energy nor his engagement. I acknowledge happily and gladly that his knowledge has continued to grow—may that continue for some time. Furthermore, he alone carries the burden of both opening and closing for his point of view in today's debate. Would that the rest of his could share his energy. However, Mr Bradshaw is quite another thing. He is a politician who is passing through. As a politician with ambition, he has no engagement with or knowledge of his subject.

I thank Mr Morrison heartily for his ringing endorsement of the merits, skills and talents of my colleague Mr Lochhead. Realising the significant impact that he always has when he engages in fishing matters, I rather hope that he will be present in Brussels to support the efforts of the man—Ross Finnie—who must do his best to represent Scotland.

Let me pick up what was said in the debate. Mr Baker claimed that it is not possible to operate a conservation policy outwith the CFP. For his Christmas, I promise to send Richard Baker a little map of Europe, on which I will highlight—he will not mind if I ink it in for him—those countries outwith the CFP that are successfully managing their stocks. Today's debate has probably covered the issue reasonably well: the CFP and conservation are strange bedfellows. After 30 years of the CFP, there can be little doubt of that.

On whether we should be within the CFP, the arguments have been well rehearsed. The Tories know our position on how they got us to where we are today, but there is no point in pursuing that at this stage. There are three key strands to Europe: the customs union, the common commercial policy, and the common monetary policy. The UK Government is happy to accept the benefits of the customs union—and I agree with it. It is happy to accept the benefits of a common commercial policy—and I agree with it. However, it rejects a common monetary policy because it believes that that is not in the UK's interests. I and my colleagues resist the CFP on exactly the same basis: we feel that it is not in Scotland's interests.

However, that is a lesser matter than the overriding matter of the common monetary policy. As a result, in rejecting a part of European policy and practice—the CFP—we are taking a substantially lesser step than the UK Government's rejection of the common monetary policy.

Richard Baker: What the member says is a very nice fiction. I should point out that the European Commission has stated in a letter to Catherine Stihler MEP that one cannot be a member of the EU and withdraw from the CFP. I have simply stated the current position. Is the member saying that he would sacrifice all the benefits of EU membership just to withdraw from the CFP?

Stewart Stevenson: One of the very interesting distinctions between the position of the Tories and the SNP on this matter is that we continue to campaign with vigour and commitment for an independent Scotland that would be an independent member of the EU. Scotland would then be able to negotiate its relationship with the EU at that point. Is it conceivable that we would not be able to secure an appropriate deal for our fishermen when we are Europe's energy capital? We can lay vital assets and interests on the table and use them in negotiations. It is inconceivable that we could not do that.

If Europe is not much interested in Scotland, Westminster has even less interest in us. The Prime Minister's strategy unit could not even count the Scottish white-fish fleet. Moreover, despite the fact that he has so far asked the Prime Minister some 200 questions, the Tory leader has yet to ask him a question about fishing. The Tories were not interested in 1971 or in 1983.

Mr Brocklebank: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry; I no longer have the time.

In his speech, Jamie McGrigor got confused about the words "won't" and "want" today, just as he got confused at yesterday's decision time about "yes" and "no" in the vote on Caledonian MacBrayne. I hope that he votes the right way and supports our amendment tonight.

In a debate last week, Ben Bradshaw talked up the RACs and said:

"I see no reason why they should not develop into real bodies for regional management."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 2 December 2004; Vol 428, c 834.]

Alas, in his written submission to the European Parliament's hearing on this matter, the then commissioner-designate, Joe Borg, said:

"The Commission could not take this on board as fisheries management has to remain compatible with the legal and institutional framework of the Treaty."

Basically, he says that it is not possible for us to evolve to regional management under the treaty.

I will close with a brief comment on scientific data. We all have to accept such data, but we should understand that, in science, it is possible to interpret them in different ways. That is not to disagree with scientists; after all, they disagree with one another. The Faroese pursue stocks to protect ecological balance; they have come to a different conclusion from the same data and have achieved different success outwith the CFP.

I support my colleague's amendment.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP