17 May 2017

S5M-05603 Fisheries

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-05603 on fisheries.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

The industry of catching wild fish has been consistently let down by Tory policy and practice over the decades. The contrast with this SNP Government could not be more stark—then, as now. In paragraph 14a, a 1970s SNP policy leaflet talks about

“the right to impose an exclusive 100 mile limit”.

The only change that we have made has been to make it a 200-mile limit.

We are the only party to have consistently, always and invariably opposed the common fisheries policy. Donald Stewart, the then leader of the SNP, spoke in the House of Commons in 1983 against the common fisheries policy when it was a matter for debate. Alan McCartney wrote an excellent paper in the 1990s on the precise point that Finlay Carson addressed—regional control. The SNP has been engaged in those issues from the outset, and it remains engaged.

On 17 January I brought a members’ business debate to the chamber supporting the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s sea of opportunity campaign. The motion said, among other things, that it

“considers that full control over fishing in the offshore economic zone represents an opportunity to reinvigorate coastal communities”

Two Tory actions on that day showed them once again in all their ambivalence towards our fishermen: no Tory signed the motion supporting the campaign, and Tory Prime Minister May made a speech entitled “The government’s negotiating objectives for exiting the EU”. It contained only a single reference to fishing—a reference to Spanish fishermen. There was nothing about our fishermen and nothing about our fishing industries.

On 2 February, the Tories’ white paper stated at paragraph 8.16 that it is

“in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities.”

That is a signal in the most unambiguous language possible that there is a deal for fishermen from other jurisdictions: we are being sold out again. At six minutes and 27 seconds into his speech, Peter Chapman confirmed that it is Tory policy that foreign vessels will continue to fish in our waters. The clear opportunity that is available, as we leave the CFP, to reclaim fishing rights in our waters is being traded away again.

If an advantage is being denied to our fishermen, there is an even graver and more disadvantageous impact looming for our processors, much of which Rhoda Grant very eloquently articulated. I will simply quote from the UK Government’s Treasury analysis of 23 May 2016, which says, at paragraph 1.15, that

“businesses that trade with the EU would be uncertain about the UK’s access to the Single Market, not knowing what restrictions could be put on their ability to trade, including tariffs, customs costs or non-tariff barriers”.

Crucially, it goes on to say that

“those that currently benefit from EU funding would not know what support if any they would receive after the UK left ... This includes ... fishermen”.

That is important for small communities around Scotland. Just when we thought that we had escaped from the CFP, we will be hit by a Tory Government that trades away our advantage and sees trade and fiscal barriers erected. Ms Leadsom’s letter does not take any opportunity to rebut what has previously been said.

Finally, Boris Johnson wrote on 26 June 2016:

“The only change—and it will not come in any great rush—is that the UK will extricate itself from the EU’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation.”

That says nothing about leaving the single market.

Abandon isolation. It does not work.


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