- The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick):
Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S4M-00904, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on the common fisheries policy. We will be extremely generous with time, and I encourage members to take interventions. Mr Lochhead has a generous 14 minutes.
- The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead):
I thank you for being so generous, Presiding Officer. I do not need much encouragement to take interventions.
We may be a small nation in the north-west corner of Europe, but we are central to European fisheries. Our nation’s identity, culture and heritage and, of course, our economy are shaped by the seas that surround us. We are responsible for Europe’s sixth largest fishing grounds, which range across some of the European Union’s richest waters. The fish in our waters have given many generations sustenance, and they now underpin a modern and innovative industry that is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Scotland’s economy. Our high-quality seafood products are renowned worldwide and are in high demand in shops and restaurants all over the globe.
The men who go to sea put their lives on the line to bring food to our tables, and we all know that many have paid the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. They battle not only the seas, the wind and the cold to bring us that bounty, but a bewildering and often contradictory tangle of European regulation. Despite that challenge, our fishermen land more than 70 per cent of the United Kingdom quota and almost a tenth of the total EU marine fish catch.
Thanks to its resilience, our fishing industry is performing well. In fact, the value of catches landed by Scottish vessels has consistently held up. The second-highest value achieved this decade was achieved last year. Mackerel and langoustine remain our two most valuable species; together, their value approaches £200 million. Newer fisheries are also doing well. We have seen, for instance, an 86 per cent increase in the value of squid landed by Scottish vessels as a result of both greater volumes and higher prices.
Alongside our sea fisheries, Scotland has, of course, a well-deserved reputation for producing healthy and high-quality farmed fish and shellfish. Scottish aquaculture is thriving and it continues to grow. Atlantic salmon production is now worth more than £400 million. We are the largest producer in the EU and the third largest globally, and salmon now accounts for more than a third of Scottish food exports.
It is not just about salmon. The value of farmed blue mussels has gone up by more than 50 per cent, to £6.7 million. That is yet another new growth sector. I am sure that many members who represent fishing communities are aware that our fleet, onshore processors, aquaculture and auxiliary sectors are hugely valuable to Scotland and our communities. That is why we need to safeguard our stocks and our vital fishing industry for future generations.
Ever since the Tories deemed our fishing industry expendable, took us into the common fisheries policy, and gave away our fishing rights into the bargain, Scotland’s fishing communities and our fish stocks have paid a heavy price.
- Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con):
Will the member check his history? He will then realise that although we became party to the common fisheries policy under the Thatcher Government in 1983, it was as part of an agreement that was signed in 1978 by the preceding Labour Government.
- Richard Lochhead:
I know that Alex Johnstone and some of his Conservative colleagues are trying to disassociate themselves from the Conservative Party’s history, but every Scot and everyone who lives in a coastal community is well aware that it was the Tory party that sold Scotland out back in the 1970s and 1980s.
We must use the opportunity of the current review to right some of the wrongs. Negotiations on a new fisheries policy will take place across Europe between now and 2013 and the outcome will determine the future viability of our fishing communities.
Today, I hope and expect that we can all agree that the CFP has been an unmitigated disaster. It has been a horror story since the day it was written. Fish stocks have been slashed, vital jobs have vanished and communities have been cut up. The very people who have to cope with its consequences are disenfranchised from the decision-making process. Our fishermen, who struggle day in, day out with the byzantine regulations will certainly agree with that, as do I and the 27 other ministers who have to sit in Brussels into the early hours every December attempting to decide mesh sizes for individual fisheries from the Baltic to the Bay of Biscay.
We all know that the CFP is too centralised and rigid, too focused on enforcing compliance, too slow to react to developing situations—which is extremely bad news for the complex situation of Scotland’s mixed fishery—and far too complex for most people to understand, not least those who are expected to implement and abide by it.
- Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD):
I agree with a lot of what the cabinet secretary has said about the deficiencies of the current system, which are recognised across Europe. I am less clear, however, about the situation with regard to support for a more regionalised model. There seems to be a breakdown in the agreement between member states. Could the cabinet secretary update the chamber on the discussions that he has been having, through the UK and bilaterally, about where areas of agreement on a more regionalised model might emerge?
- Richard Lochhead:
That is an important point, and I will deal with it when I address some of the key issues in the CFP reform debate. I will say, at this point, that we are still waiting to hear some of the proposals from the European Commission, which will give us some indication of what it thinks is legally possible—and, perhaps, legally less possible. We will take a strong view once we have that information.
Crucially, the CFP has failed to protect our stocks. The Commission has identified 75 per cent of European stocks as being overfished. We could not get a better recognition of the failure of the CFP to achieve its core objective. In recent years, and against that challenging background, Scotland has shown leadership and a determination to solve problems as far as we can within the constraints that are set by Brussels. We have brought together everyone who is involved in our fisheries—the Government, scientists, the industry, the non-governmental organisations and the fishing crews—in order to work together for the good of Scotland. We have put stakeholders at the heart of policy making; we have provided incentives for stock conservation measures; and we have challenged conventional thinking with innovation and imagination. Europe can learn from our experience.
It is important that we have introduced measures to tackle the abhorrent practice of fish discards under the policy of catch less, land more. The discarding of high-quality and high-value fish is an absolute disgrace. The way in which the CFP currently operates fish quotas is a recipe for discards. In 2010, perfectly good, high-quality white fish worth more than £30 million to the Scottish fleet were thrown back into the sea, dead. I know that we all agree that that is an appalling waste of a valuable food resource.
- Liam McArthur:
Will the cabinet secretary take another intervention?
- Richard Lochhead:
- Liam McArthur:
I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for taking another intervention, in the spirit that the Presiding Officer outlined.
I agree with what the cabinet secretary said about the economic and environmental madness of discards. Does he agree, however, that it would be helpful to make a distinction between the situation that he is talking about and live discards, which happen routinely as part of the inshore shellfish fishery?
- Richard Lochhead:
Liam McArthur makes a good point and illustrates how we have to be careful as we take this debate forward. Of course, the statistic that I just gave the chamber concerned fish that are thrown back into the sea dead. That distinction, which involves different fisheries in Scotland, has been made.
The fact that the situation that we are discussing is a by-product of a policy that is designed to conserve stocks is perhaps the biggest disgrace of all. There is now international agreement that tackling discards is a priority, and people are talking about imposing a ban on the practice. Of course we will make the case that, if we genuinely want to deal with the issue, we cannot have a ban without having a plan. In Scotland we have worked with the industry and the NGOs to take action. For example, under our innovative real-time closure schemes, areas that have concentrations of cod, for instance, are closed to fishing until the fish have dispersed, which lowers mortality. We have not stopped there. We have developed more selective gear measures in many different fisheries and the catch quota scheme, which focuses on what is caught and not what is landed, is operating. The scheme reduced discards of North Sea cod by 30 per cent in 2009-10.
On the west coast, the science is recommending a 410 per cent increase in quota. I think that all members know that the west coast has had its fair share of pain in recent years, so I hope that the science gives grounds for optimism for the future. It is imperative that the Commission follows the science, because to do otherwise would lead to more massive discarding of viable fish on the west coast of Scotland.
- Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD):
Does the cabinet secretary acknowledge that the Commission is proposing that quotas should automatically be cut by 25 per cent for stock for which no science is available? Given the massive implications for the Scottish industry of that proposal becoming a firm decision, how will he approach the matter?
- Richard Lochhead:
Tavish Scott makes a point that is important to his constituency, given the high-value stocks that would be caught by the discriminatory rule whereby if the scientific evidence was not regarded as being up to the Commission’s standards there would be an automatic 25 per cent cut in the quota. Such an approach is not justified. We have expressed concern about and are resisting the proposal. I assure Tavish Scott that the issue is high on our agenda for the forthcoming negotiations.
Innovation is the hallmark of fisheries management in Scotland, which shows what can be achieved when we can take decisions closer to home. The one-size-fits-all micromanagement by Brussels of every aspect of fisheries needs to stop. For as long as we are part of the common fisheries policy, the CFP’s role must be limited to the setting of targets and a framework in which decision making by Brussels is kept to a minimum. Member states must be left to work together, where it makes sense to do so, to manage fisheries in partnership with our fishermen and other stakeholders.
Through our good work in Scotland, I have seen that when everyone who is involved feels that they own the problem they also feel that they own the solution. That unlocks creativity, honesty and fresh thinking about problem solving. The first step to solving the problems of the CFP can be taken only if the Commission trusts member states and returns more power to them to run their fisheries at local and regional level.
The EU’s centralising tendency is demonstrated in some of the proposals around aquaculture. The Commission has made clear that aquaculture will be a key pillar of the reformed CFP. Scotland has a diverse and thriving aquaculture industry, which produces some of our most prized products. The industry is doing great things, with support through the European fisheries fund but without overdetailed regulation and micromanagement from Brussels. As part of the debate about the future of the CFP and the fisheries fund, we must ensure that a framework is in place to enable the continued growth of an economically viable, competitive and sustainable Scottish aquaculture industry. What we do not want or need is an extension of the centralised approach that has worked so poorly for the sea fisheries sector during the past few decades.
The Commission’s alarming proposal on transferable fishing quotas illustrates many of the existing problems. The Commission has identified as a problem the number of fishing vessels and has proposed a measure to reduce them. Our view is that an approach that allows the people who have the deepest pockets to swallow up the industry is not what Scotland’s diverse fishing communities need. The Commission views transferable fishing quotas as a way of cutting capacity, but in Scotland we have already reduced our fleet and the EU should recognise and reward that. Indeed, thanks to the industry’s sacrifices, three quarters of our stocks in our waters are being fished sustainably.
I want to be very clear. The introduction of transferable fishing quotas for Scotland could, in time, spell doom for our fishing communities. This Government will not allow a situation to arise that could mean that future generations will not be able to fish the stocks in their own waters. I note that the proposed regulation allows Governments to recall and redistribute individual transferable quotas after a 15-year notice period. I think that we can all agree that 15 years is a long time. What capacity would be left in Scotland to begin fishing again after the quotas were back in place—if we could find the cash to buy them back from foreign-based multinationals?
The UK Government appears to be sympathetic to quota trading, but Scotland has far more to lose than the rest of the UK, where much of the industry is already foreign owned. That is why Scotland needs a strong voice in the negotiations, so that our case can be heard loud and clear on that and other issues. That means that we must have appropriate representation in Brussels. Even under devolution, Scotland’s voice could be louder.
The UK Government keeps telling us that it is relaxed about Scottish ministers speaking at council meetings on the UK’s behalf, until we ask to do so—then the UK Government says no. Under this Administration, Scotland has spoken only once for the UK in fisheries negotiations, and even that was only after the First Minister had to ask the Prime Minister to intervene to overturn the initial refusal by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
I assure the Parliament that I intend to ask the UK Government for a greater role in the CFP negotiations, to safeguard our interests. That is not about picking a fight with London; it is about making Scotland’s voice heard and focusing on the issues that matter to Scotland’s fishing communities and on the industry’s future. Scotland is part of the UK—for the time being—so it is obvious that it is important that we work constructively with the UK Government to ensure that it promotes Scotland’s interests. We will of course continue to do that.
The UK and the Commission tell us that they want radical change. They must not take the easy route of sticking with the status quo—that happened in the past and must not happen again. We have heard many fine words from them, but now it is time to deliver.
Scotland will remain active in Europe to pursue reform. I have met and discussed the issues with the European commissioner, among others, and I will work with all parties that have an interest in putting the failed CFP behind us—the Commission, the European Parliament, Westminster and other member states included.
If Europe blows the golden opportunity to sail our fishing communities into calmer waters, the consequences will be dire for fisheries conservation, our fishing communities and our industry in Scotland. I know that everyone in the Parliament wants the best outcome from the negotiations for our fishing communities and our marine environment.
Our priorities will be the return of decision making to Scotland to protect our fish stocks, to really tackle discards and to protect our fishing rights for future generations. The Government will strain every sinew and use every means in its power to consign the current CFP to the dustbin of history and replace it with a policy that provides a better future for Scotland’s fishermen.
I commend the motion to the Parliament. I move,
That the Parliament supports the Scottish Government in its efforts to achieve the best possible outcome for Scotland during negotiations on the future of the failed Common Fisheries Policy in order to protect Scotland’s historic fishing rights, protect fish stocks, tackle discards, support Scotland’s aquaculture industry without burdening it with unnecessary regulation, promote Scottish seafood and give greater power to fishing nations to manage their fisheries and protect the marine environment.
- The Presiding Officer:
I call Elaine Murray, who has a generous 10 minutes.
- Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab):
As the cabinet secretary said, the widespread consensus has been that the common fisheries policy has not worked. It has not produced sustainable fisheries—many are still overfished; it has not worked for the EU market or for fishermen, many of whom cannot make a living; and it has been criticised by fishermen, environmentalists, politicians and now the Commission. The policy has presented particular problems for the Scottish fleet—for example, the maximum sustainable yield for single species has been extremely problematic and unreliable in mixed fisheries, in which many of our fleet operate.
I apologise to Alex Fergusson for my amendment being picked, because I know that he submitted one similar to mine. I hope that he will find it possible to agree to our amendment.
I am slightly surprised that much of the cabinet secretary’s speech was about problems with the current policy and that he spoke a little less about his reaction to the EU’s reform proposals, which were much anticipated. In July, Commissioner Damanaki outlined the basic principles, which I will run through, as we have not said much about them. The measures are: bringing all stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, which is a bit of a big ask; taking an ecosystem approach that is based on the best scientific advice; phasing out discarding over three years; introducing individual tradeable catches in member states; providing better information for consumers; using solutions that are tailored to regional and local needs and which involve a stronger role for fishermen’s organisations in making economic decisions about the fleet size and market supply; restricting financial support only to initiatives that promote “smart and sustainable growth”; and including aquaculture in the reformed policy, as the cabinet secretary said.
The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee has yet to commence consideration of the proposals. The allocation of reports was delayed at the committee’s meeting on 31 July because of an argument that grew up between the groups on that committee about the distribution of reports—who could bid for the reports was apparently discussed. The reports were to be allocated at the further meeting last Monday, but that had—unfortunately—to be cancelled because of a power cut that resulted from a fire in a transformer. I hope that the committee has better luck in beginning to consider the proposals in the future.
As always with the common fisheries policy, the new proposals have not met with universal approval, although there has been a general welcome for the direction of travel. Of course, it is the detail of the proposals that will be important. That is one concern for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and environmental organisations. The SFF said in an article in its newsletter in the summer:
“how exactly we are to move from hell”—
that is, the current position—
“to heaven while retaining a viable fishing industry ... has yet to be filled in.”
The RSPB states:
“A striking key feature of the proposal is its vagueness in many areas repeatedly prompting the question ‘who should do what and by when?’”
WWF Scotland states:
“crucial delivery mechanisms, time-frames and responsibilities ... are still lacking”.
Scottish Labour welcomes many of the Commission’s proposals. We are in favour of an ecosystem approach that delivers a long-term and sustainable future for the Scottish fleet and enhances the biodiversity of our seas. That is easy to say, but a lot less easy to do. To do it, the EU must invest in the science on which decisions are based, and all stakeholders need to be confident that the science is well founded and correct. We support the regional management of fisheries, through which nations that border a sea work together with their stakeholders to protect biodiversity and promote a sustainable industry with a long-term future. We agree with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation that co-operation with other states will be required to make the most appropriate regulation.
At times, the Scottish Government’s approach to the CFP appears to be rather at odds with its policies on an independent Scotland with membership of the EU. For example, the Government’s response to the interim green paper on CFP reform in 2009 stated:
“The Scottish Government aims to manage Scottish fisheries outwith the Common Fisheries Policy.”
On several occasions, the cabinet secretary has referred to repatriating fishing policy. I might be mistaken, but I do not believe that that is possible while retaining membership of the EU. We know from what the First Minister said in “Your Scotland, Your Voice: A National Conversation” that the Government’s intention is that an independent Scotland would be a member of the European Union. The Lisbon treaty states that the European Union
“shall define and implement a common agriculture and fisheries policy”,
which will be established by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. So if an independent Scotland joined the EU, it would have to adhere to the common fisheries policy. It could of course negotiate for itself as one of a large number of nations—probably at least 36 by the time that an independent Scotland joined. By that time, another 96 million citizens will quite possibly have joined the 495 million who are already in the EU. I suspect that Scotland’s number of members of the European Parliament would remain at about six out of 750.
I and my colleagues in the Labour Party fail to understand how that would better protect the interests of the Scottish fleet or of Scottish aquaculture than being the predominant interest, as those issues should be, for the much larger UK delegation. Surely, the best way in which to protect the Scottish industry is to work to persuade our UK colleagues that the Scottish interest is also the UK interest.
- Richard Lochhead:
As someone who in recent years has attended more Council of Ministers meetings than I care to remember, I assure the member that I have witnessed many small nations sitting round the table getting better deals than some of the bigger nations on issues that are key to those small nations’ futures. Does that not illustrate why Scotland would get a much better deal with our own seat at the top table in Europe?
- Elaine Murray:
No, not necessarily. I have only ever been at one Council of Ministers meeting, so I bow to the cabinet secretary’s experience on that, but the issue depends on the interest. Our fleet does not have much in common with the artisanal fleets of the Mediterranean. The small countries in the Mediterranean have a common interest that we do not share, but we should have a common interest with our UK colleagues. That is why I believe that we can negotiate better from within the UK.
Two thirds of the volume of fish that is landed in the UK is landed by the Scottish fleet; the most valuable nephrops and mackerel fisheries lie in Scottish waters; and Scotland is the largest producer of farmed salmon in the EU, and currently the second largest in the world because of the problems that Chile is having, so it should not be impossible to persuade the UK that that is the UK’s interest. The Scottish aquaculture industry should be a major participant in the creation of the advisory council for aquaculture that is proposed in the reform package. Negotiation as part of the UK member state is the situation in which CFP reform will be considered, as it will be introduced by January 2013. Hence the need, mentioned in our amendment and in the one that Alex Fergusson lodged, to work with the UK Government in Scotland’s interests.
- The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):
The member referred to aquaculture in relation to the CFP. Does the member believe that it would be in Scotland’s interests if that £450-million-a-year industry were inside the restrictive and unhelpful CFP when our major competitors, Norway and Chile, are outside the CFP? Would it not be better that the aquaculture industry remained rather distant from the failed CFP?
- Elaine Murray:
That depends on the detail of the proposals. As I said, the proposals lack detail at the moment. However, there are opportunities in there because of the strength of the Scottish aquaculture sector. Indeed, bodies such as the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation recognise those possibilities.
I do not care whether it is a UK or a Scottish minister who takes the lead. What I really care about is that whoever does so has a real commitment to the Scottish fishing industry for the long term and to the biodiversity and health of our seas.
I mentioned regionalisation as one of the areas of consensus. I was therefore concerned to hear in evidence to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee last week that the Commission’s legal service has since said that any meaningful devolution at all, even to regional management, would be in breach of the treaties. That needs urgent clarification.
There are problems, too, with individual transferable quotas. Although the commissioner believes that the proposals offer safeguards, the committee heard evidence suggesting that articles 31.2 and 32 of the proposed regulation could allow member states to authorise transfer to other member states. There would be inherent dangers for the Scottish industry if trading of quotas is not constrained to within member states and remains voluntary.
The purchase of quotas could lead to the industry becoming concentrated under the control of large operators that may choose not to land catch in smaller fishing ports and instead transport it directly to larger centres of distribution, with the consequent loss of onshore activity and employment in rural areas. My colleague Claudia Beamish will explore that issue.
How much more time do I have, Presiding Officer?
- The Presiding Officer:
I am still being generous.
- Elaine Murray:
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “Hugh’s Fish Fight” has brought the issue of discarding unlandable fish to public attention across the EU, although it has been an issue of concern for fishermen and politicians for many years. We just do not have the clout of celebrity chefs.
No one likes the idea of catching and killing fish just to throw them back overboard, but the solution is not as simple as it might at first appear. For example the SFF has stated that, although it abhors discarding,
“in the complex mixed fisheries that our fleet operates in it is totally impracticable to ban discards altogether.”
Taking the approach of landing everything will not address the issues of sustainable stocks and biodiversity. Discards are not only the
“good quality fish being dumped overboard”,
as the cabinet secretary described them in Scotland on Sunday. They may also be juvenile fish or species that we should not be landing at all. We must avoid creating a market in those fish; doing so would go against everything that we are trying to do for sustainability. The principle must be to avoid catching them and measures applied by Scottish fishermen, such as real-time fishing closures, selective fishing gear and the use of closed-circuit television cameras on boats, are essential. We should have proper incentives for our fishermen to avoid discarding altogether.
The common fisheries policy reforms are due to come into force in January 2013. Some of the proposals are to be welcomed; others carry a health warning and need considerable clarification. No doubt there will be much discussion in Europe—when the fisheries council eventually manages to start discussing it—and in the member states over the next year. Our aim in Scotland must be to secure the long-term future of the Scottish fishing industry, the Scottish aquaculture industry and the long-term health of our seas.
The Scottish Government does not even plan to have had its independence referendum by the time the new CFP comes into effect, so it will have to work closely with the UK Government to secure the best possible deal. It would be unforgivable if that was sacrificed in order to score constitutional points or to pick fights with Westminster. I do not like the current Westminster Government any more than the cabinet secretary, but it is necessary for both Governments to work together for the Scottish industry. The industry is too important to be used as a stepping stone to independence. This is not about constitutional reform; it is about an essential and much-respected Scottish industry.
I move amendment S4M-00904.1, to insert at end:
“; however recognises that these discussions will be undertaken by the UK as a member state, and therefore urges the Scottish Government to work closely with the UK Government to ensure that the long-term interests of the Scottish fishing and aquaculture industries and Scotland’s marine environment are at the centre of the forthcoming discussions on reform.”
- The Presiding Officer:
I call Alex Fergusson. You will be very pleased to know that I will be equally generous with your six minutes, Mr Fergusson.
- Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con):
I am grateful to you, Presiding Officer. I am very well aware of your desire to allow back benchers more time in debates and I will probably allow that to happen, because my comments might be relatively brief.
I thank Elaine Murray for recognising that our proposed amendment stated very much what hers states. I point out only that, in typical economic fashion, our amendment used 19 words to say what Labour’s took 56 words to say. However, I find the rejection of our proposed amendment entirely understandable under the circumstances and that is in no way meant as a criticism.
This is a timely debate, given the importance of the Scottish fishing industry and the massive influence that the common fisheries policy has on it. It is all too easy simply to rail at length against the hated CFP and all who have anything to do with it. Indeed, I was very tempted to begin my speech by doing just that, but I found myself drawn to a comment in the briefing that the SFF helpfully sent to us, which states, perhaps somewhat surprisingly:
“some credence must be given to the fact that since the last reform in 2002: ‘Using the simple indicator of sustainability, the proportion of stocks that are within safe biological limits has increased ... from about 10% to about 40%.’”
So, something must have gone right over the past decade—although presumably and probably not as quickly or efficiently as was originally promised—and it would surely be churlish not to recognise the positive achievement that that statistic represents.
It was in that spirit of magnanimity that I reread Maria Damanaki’s words on the latest proposed reforms. In a press release that has accompanied the announcement of the reforms, she said:
“Action is needed now to get all our fish stocks back into a healthy state to preserve them for present and future generations. Only under this precondition can fishermen continue to fish and earn a decent living out of their activities.
This means that we have to manage each stock wisely, harvesting what we can but keeping the stock healthy and productive for the future. This will bring us higher catches, a sound environment and a secure seafood supply. If we get this reform right, fishermen and coastal communities will be better off in the long run. And all Europeans will have a wider choice of fresh fish, both wild and farm produced.”
Like everyone else, I am sure, I cannot disagree with one single word of that statement, and yet for some reason my heart sinks when I realise that the vehicle for the delivery of that unarguably magnificent aspiration is the common fisheries policy itself. History tells us—both previous speakers underlined this—that the best interests of Scotland’s fishermen and, therefore, its fishing industry, rarely if ever coincide with the general principles and thrust of the CFP.
We have to look at the main proposals of the reforms very carefully. In the time that is available to me—however generous it might be—I will take a brief look at just three of the proposals in the reforms: on discards, transferable fishing concessions and aquaculture. I make no apology for the degree of repetition that I am sure there will be throughout this debate.
I share completely in everyone else’s widespread revulsion at the dreadful waste and wilful disregard for our marine environment that discards personify and I welcome whole-heartedly the determination to do something about them. However, I add a word of caution about the dangers of a possible knee-jerk reaction to a very public and high-profile campaign by a celebrity TV chef, which has rocketed this issue up the agenda, even though that chef—this is a rather Stewart Stevenson-like statement, for which I apologise—was my first cousin once removed’s best man. I am influenced in my observations on that not just by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, which points out that the proposals for a ban on discards do not necessarily present a solution to the problem, but by the cautionary note that is sounded in the briefing papers provided by the RSPB, which argues that
“the Commission’s current proposals focus overwhelmingly on the issue of landing all catches, rather than on ways to avoid the capture of potentially discardable fish in the first place.”
That view is echoed to an extent by WWF Scotland, which states:
“we believe the proposed discard ban is not the right solution to a highly complex problem. We need to catch less, and make better use of what is caught.”
Those are powerful arguments and I am certainly not persuaded that a simple land-all-catch policy is in any way the right answer. I therefore must urge caution in that area of reform. I was warmed by Elaine Murray’s powerful arguments in that regard.
I urge similar caution on the subject of TFCs. Some, like the SFF, argue that the proposal poses little threat. Others, like Ian Hudghton and Struan Stevenson, two MEPs who appeared in front of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee by videolink just last week, argue that the proposal holds a very real threat to the basic principle of relative stability that currently underpins fisheries policy. Like Elaine Murray, I suspect that if TFCs are kept within the member states, the SFF’s position will be justified, but that if TFCs become tradeable between member states, the fears of our MEPs will be more than fully realised. Caution has to be the watchword on this matter if our Scottish industry is to be properly protected.
Finally, I turn to aquaculture. I find myself instinctively nervous at the prospect of the EU spreading its bureaucratic tentacles over the aquaculture sector to an even greater extent than it does already, and I am relieved that that nervousness is shared by the UK and Scottish Governments. The Commission’s proposals include the suggestion that an aquaculture advisory group be established. Although that is not our preferred outcome of the reform process, if it is the outcome, I believe that Scotland must have a lead role to play in that advisory group, given the pre-eminence of our aquaculture industry.
Even with the Presiding Officer’s kind offer to extend the time that is available to us, time does not permit me to look at the reform proposals in any greater detail, although I know that others will do so. I cannot overestimate the importance of getting the reform of the CFP right for Scotland. Of course we support the Scottish Government in its efforts to do just that, and I welcome the cabinet secretary’s commitment to working as closely as possible with the UK Government as it does so. For our part, Conservative members will do everything that we can to encourage the UK Government to work as closely as possible with the Scottish Government to achieve that outcome.
- The Presiding Officer:
We move to the open debate. I ask for speeches of six minutes, but if members take interventions, we will be generous.
- Aileen McLeod (South Scotland) (SNP):
I welcome this timely debate on the reform of the common fisheries policy as the EU discussions get under way in Brussels. I also welcome the cabinet secretary’s outlining of the Scottish Government’s priorities for protecting Scotland’s crucial fishing industry and communities.
On 13 July, the European Commission published its proposals for a major reform of the CFP. Those proposals will impact on one of Scotland’s most important economic sectors, determine the future of our fishing industry and the livelihoods of our fishermen, and impact on entire towns and communities around Scotland’s shores.
Despite the fact that the proposals will impact principally on Scotland’s shores, given that over 70 per cent of all the fish that are caught in UK waters are landed in Scotland, Scotland’s cabinet secretary must rely on an invitation by the UK Government to participate fully in key fisheries council meetings so that he can be part of the crucial EU decision-making process. Ministers from the landlocked Czech Republic, Slovakia and Luxembourg have the right to attend those meetings, in which they have no national interest, whereas Scotland, a country with an absolutely vital national interest in the future of the CFP, is excluded from them, unless the UK Government permits our minister to attend. That is not only unacceptable; it is an insult to the individuals and communities whose livelihoods will be determined by the decisions that are made in Brussels.
In a debate in the chamber two weeks ago, Opposition members urged the Scottish Government to bring forward reasons why it wanted the Scotland Bill to be amended to give Scottish ministers the right to attend meetings of the EU council when a devolved matter is being debated. I can think of no better illustration of the Scottish Government’s case than the crucial discussions to reform the CFP, at which Scotland’s vital national interests are at stake.
- Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab):
Will the member take an intervention on that point?
- Aileen McLeod:
I would like to make progress.
I simply do not accept the proposition that the UK Government has a sufficiently detailed knowledge and understanding of the Scottish fishing industry, of the Scottish Government’s policies towards the industry or, indeed, of the significance of fishing to our communities, to properly represent Scotland’s interests in the area. In support of my argument, I offer the fact that, prior to devolution, I understand that it was customary for a minister from the Scottish Office to participate in the UK delegation to the fisheries council precisely for that reason. I hope that those who question the Scottish Government’s motivation in proposing the amendment to the Scotland Bill will reflect on the fact that there are extremely valid reasons for it.
However, we can also reflect on much wider evidence that reforming the CFP must involve those who understand the industry and represent the communities that are involved in it. Few members will be surprised when I say that the CFP has been bad for Scotland, the industry and fish stocks. There is now general acceptance that the CFP is a failed policy. Even the European Commission accepted that in its April 2009 green paper, but instead of acknowledging that the cause of the failure is the policies that it has foisted on the industry, the Commission now offers as the way forward yet another round of centrally planned and implemented reforms under its control. That is hardly the radical reform for which many of us had hoped.
The Commission has seemed incapable of accepting that the way forward is to give the powers that it has misused to Europe’s fishing nations to manage better their fisheries and protect the marine environment. The SNP Government’s record on that is exemplary, with the establishment in 2008 of its ground-breaking conservation credits scheme. That scheme is now widely adopted throughout the EU and remains a central plank in the partnership that has been forged between the Scottish Government and Scotland’s fishermen to manage fish stocks and ensure that the industry has a viable future.
The Commission’s CFP reform proposals begin to recognise that responsibility for the future sustainability of our fishing industry must be returned to the countries and communities that are involved in it. Although I welcome that recognition, albeit that it is belated, the Commission’s proposals for regionalisation are much too modest in scope and do not go far enough. The real management decisions should be left to our fishing nations, which must work regionally, with the EU setting only broad principles.
The Commission’s proposals for an EU-wide mandatory discards ban and mandatory tradeable fishing concessions scheme are of deep concern, as other members have mentioned. We must guard against any potential threat to the relative stability principle and ensure that Scotland retains its historical fishing rights.
Therefore, it is vital that Scotland’s interests be represented in the negotiations. Part of the responsibility for that falls to our MEPs, with whom we must work closely. However—I make no apology for returning to this theme—Scotland has no direct representation on the arguably more important Council of Ministers. I genuinely hope that, as this important debate proceeds, colleagues from other parties will reflect on the Scottish Government’s proposal that we be represented on the relevant UK delegations to ensure that the interests not of the SNP but of Scotland’s fishing industry and communities be represented in Brussels and that Scotland’s voice be as strong as possible.
Scotland’s interest in the CFP debate will, as with all other EU policy areas, be properly represented only when Scotland becomes a full member state with its own commissioner, its own representative and many more MEPs.
- Sarah Boyack:
Will the member give way?
- Aileen McLeod:
I am just about to finish.
In the meantime, matters will be improved only if the Parliament endorses the Scottish Government’s proposed amendment to the Scotland Bill and it is included in any subsequent Westminster Scotland act.
- Jenny Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab):
I thank Aileen McLeod for her speech, but I am still confused—as, I think, my colleagues on the Labour benches are—about the SNP’s position on the issue. It is my understanding that an independent Scotland—if it were to come about, which I am doubtful it will—would be part of a common fisheries policy if it was a member state of the EU. I invite the cabinet secretary to clarify the position on that in his closing speech.
I welcome many of the European Commission’s proposals for reform of the common fisheries policy. As we are all aware, the CFP has been subject to intense criticism as one of Europe’s biggest policy failures. With around 80 per cent of European stocks being overfished and fish consistently being caught before they reach maturity, there has been justified concern among scientific bodies and policy makers for the sustainability of the fishing industry that is crucial to many of Scotland’s coastal villages and towns, especially in the region that I represent.
I particularly welcome the European Commission’s commitment to an ecological approach to fisheries, as demonstrated by its commitment to bringing stocks to maximum sustainable yield by 2015; the establishment of long-term multi-annual plans for all fisheries, based on sound scientific advice; and, perhaps most important, a commitment to phasing out the practice of discarding by 2016.
- Liam McArthur:
Will the member take an intervention?
- Jenny Marra:
No, thank you.
Only by tackling the root causes and effects of the CFP’s failure can we bring stocks back to healthy levels and make fishing an ecologically sustainable endeavour once more.
As well as those clear and bold objectives, the Commission has committed to decentralising control of policy making to better embody the principle of subsidiarity, or bottom-up decision making. That marks a distinct opportunity for member states and those within them who are closest to the fishing industry to take more control of the policy-making process. In light of that opportunity, the Scottish Government must work harder than ever with the industry, scientists, the UK Government and NGOs so that it can make a successful contribution to the achievement of the Commission’s targets.
There are still significant gaps in the Commission’s proposals that leave opportunity, if not responsibility, for the Scottish Government to act. For example, the delivery of long-term management plans through clear and specific targets for individual fisheries must be put in place, and the Scottish Government must work with stakeholders to achieve that.
Similarly, the Scottish Government must commit fully to multi-annual plans, in terms of resources and its efforts to engage. Our scientists must have the necessary resources to contribute fully to a more regionalised CFP, where good governance ought to be synonymous with good science. Too often we have seen quotas prescribed not on the advice of scientific bodies, but on the basis of political considerations. The Government must work hard to promote the role of science in the consideration of fishing rights allocation, because only then can we begin to meaningfully restore our fishing stocks. Scientists have made it clear that significant steps still need to be taken to monitor the state of our fisheries, and without the means to do so we risk losing the opportunity to focus our efforts efficiently on ecological sustainability and thus a healthy fishing industry.
In that process, the Scottish Government must listen to the concerns of fishermen, industry experts and NGOs in order to tackle fundamental problems such as overcapacity and discards. They all have a valuable contribution to make on the best way to tackle those issues. For example, like many stakeholders, I am concerned that the practice of commercialising would-be discards will bring unique challenges to Scottish fisheries. The Government must continue with the work of the Scottish conservation credits scheme to focus on avoiding the capture of unwanted fish in the first place rather than on creating a market for them. Mechanisms such as real-time closures, the use of CCTV, and gear specifications have been widely recognised as successful in combating discards, and I urge the Scottish Government to continue working with stakeholders to develop similar mechanisms that will help to eliminate discards by 2016.
The Commission has been bold in its proposals to reform the CFP in a way that makes it more sustainable. However, it has also placed the ball in our court and put significant onus on member states and related stakeholders to achieve that goal. I urge the Scottish Government to play its part in shaping the future of the CFP by working with the UK Government and listening to NGOs, scientific advice and the industry to create a responsible, sustainable common fisheries policy that will benefit Scottish coastal towns and villages for years to come.
- Graeme Dey (Angus South) (SNP):
As a recently elected member, I admit that I can still occasionally be genuinely taken aback by things that I come across as an MSP. With the passage of time, I suspect that I will become more hardened to such things, but I hope that I never reach the point at which I am so immune that events of the type that have put the reform of the CFP on ice for the past two and a half months do not provoke a sense of dismay and disappointment.
As Scotland’s fishermen face with concern the formulation of a new CFP, they deserve better than to have progress towards that delayed by the petty party-politicking in Europe on which Elaine Murray touched.
The six separate reports that the European Commission published on 13 July should have been allocated to the various political groups before the summer, but a dispute over who got what created an impasse. It will be next Monday at the earliest before the matter is resolved.
The next phase in the process is—or was—due to get under way on 10 October and to conclude by December. Resolution might have been reached at Monday’s planned meeting of the Committee on Fisheries in Brussels, but that meeting was scrapped after the European Parliament building was struck by a power cut—as the saying goes, you could not make it up. However, there is little humour to be found in this farce, because a two-and-a-half-month logjam, especially at this initial stage, raises the possibility that aspects of the new-look CFP that may be hugely important to Scotland will not be as well scrutinised as they might have been.
I am sure that this debate will cover in detail every angle of the CFP and what it might mean to our fishermen. I will focus on just two aspects: decentralisation and the threat of the Commission imposing mandatory transferable fishing concessions on member states. Greater decentralisation and regionalisation is long overdue. Centralised micromanagement from Brussels has dogged the CFP for years. For a while, it seemed to be accepted that what is actually needed is a menu of management options from which member states can select what is best suited to their needs. However, no sooner had fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki spoken about ending micromanagement from Brussels than a problem emerged over a claim that it might be illegal to do so.
Commissioner Damanaki told us that the EU should be
“the lighthouse ... showing the way. Member states, the regions and industry have to steer the ship—and avoid the rocks.”
Almost immediately, doubts were raised about the legality of such a move. It was claimed that transferring significant powers from Brussels back to member states would be a treaty breach. Now, interestingly, Ms Damanaki is on the retreat and qualifying everything that she says on regionalisation with the rider that it is as far as the treaties allow for.
There is, of course, a degree of contradiction from the Commission, which talks about devolving power to member states while at the same time proposing an EU-wide programme of tradeable fishing concessions. Scotland should be extremely wary of the establishment of transferable quotas as proposed. We are told that the quotas will be tradeable only within member states and not between member states and that safeguards will be put in place. However, as Elaine Murray touched on, that is not what is proposed in articles 32.2 and 31.2. The fears that are raised by those proposals are supposed to be calmed by claims that the wording in the proposals, which present a back-door threat to the principle of relative stability, should have been clearer and that they refer only to temporary leasing or the transfer of unused concessions. However, as Alex Fergusson said, when Scots MEPs Struan Stevenson and Ian Hudghton, who are both members of the Committee on Fisheries, gave evidence to the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, they left no one in doubt about the seriousness of the issue.
One of the aims of establishing tradeable fishing concessions is to reduce further the capacity of the EU fleet by 20 per cent without compensating fishermen for decommissioning. It is accepted that there are too many boats chasing too few fish and it is generally accepted that, despite the conservation efforts of recent years, up to 75 per cent of EU stocks are still overfished. However, there remains considerable doubt over the science surrounding the issue.
- Liam McArthur:
Will the member take an intervention?
- Graeme Dey:
No. I want to finish, if I may.
Just as we accept the need to tackle the issue of discards, so no one disputes that overfishing is a problem. Commissioner Damanaki can argue that the EU fleet remains “obese”, but the problem for Scotland is that the Commission is effectively admitting defeat in trying to force the likes of Spain to take its share of cuts and settling instead for fleet reduction wherever and whenever. It wants market forces to do the job, but that takes no account of the fact that in Scotland since 1998, through a mix of consolidations, decommissioning and retirement, 48 per cent of our pelagic fleet and 41 per cent of the demersal fleet has gone.
According to Struan Stevenson and Ian Hudghton, one of the major dangers of such a scheme is that if the rights were bought off Scots fishermen by large mainland-Europe fishing operations, the catches would be landed there, which would sound the death knell for Scottish ports such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh. Both MEPS pointed to Iceland as a prime example of how things can go wrong. The Icelanders introduced a system that was designed to ensure that quotas were held only by fishermen in their smaller village fishing communities, but those quotas were subsequently bought up by big Reykjavik companies and eventually fell into the hands of a financial conglomerate in the USA. That New York-based conglomerate then went bust, leaving the Icelandic Government with a shambles on its hands. There is a warning there for us, and we should heed it.
Last week, Struan Stevenson gave the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee an undertaking that Scotland’s MEPs would set aside party differences and work together in the interests of our fishing communities. I hope that the Parliament, too, will come together and speak with one voice in support of Scotland’s fishermen to secure CFP reform that protects Scotland’s fishing interests in future.
The Labour amendment calls on the Scottish Government to work closely with London. I am sure that the cabinet secretary will fight Scotland’s corner by any and all means necessary, including working closely with the UK Government, but there are two very good reasons why Richard Lochhead needs to be given a leading role in securing a CFP that protects our fishermen’s interests. First, as he pointed out, Scottish vessels land 70 per cent of the UK catch and almost 10 per cent of the EU. Secondly—and more telling—such is the London Tory and Lib Dem coalition’s interest in fishing that it has not included a single reference to it in its 409-point coalition agreement.
I urge members to support the Scottish Government motion.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith):
It is of course entirely up to members whether they want to take interventions. However, if they wish to do so, I can be generous in giving that time back to them.
- Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (SNP):
The cabinet secretary has ably articulated the fishing industry’s importance to Scotland and the serious implications for its future if the CFP review body ignores regional differences and needs. In the region that I represent, the Highlands and Islands, all kinds of fishing combine to make it our largest industry; indeed, it is as important as oil to the Scottish economy and not only generates work for fishermen but sustains land-based employment at harbours and ports and in the transport, processing, trade and retail sectors. It is ironic that the CFP, which I am sure was initially designed as an expression of common cause by European states, should threaten all of that.
In the 1970s, the UK Government banned herring fishing, which led to boats being tied up in the Highlands and Islands, particularly along the west coast. Markets were then found in north Africa, Russia and Japan for mackerel, which had hitherto not been fished. It resulted in an extraordinary Klondike. Boats from every part of the UK came to share the bonanza. They had to steam only very short distances to fill their holds with fish; indeed, many did so twice a day. That Klondike continued for just over a decade and, by the late 1980s, it was all over. It was simply unsustainable. Such practices would be unthinkable today.
That bit of history is relevant in illustrating why the belief exists in the need for a serious approach to conserving fish stocks and better management of the catch and the industry. Given this common cause, it would not have been unreasonable to have had a considerable and responsible common fisheries policy that was agreed by European partners. If the policies are to be right for our industry, it is essential that their terms and conditions are practical and understood, and political representation and negotiation in Europe must be undertaken by those who understand the industry.
As others have mentioned, certain conditions in the CFP review that have been flagged up by our MEPs would be wholly detrimental to the industry in Scotland. The subject of discards is interesting. To many, the case will appear black and white: fishermen should just land everything. However, the situation is complex and we must listen to and understand practitioners and their agencies on this matter. The industry—which is, I would say, not whiter than white—has recognised and is acting on conservation and discards issues in order to maintain sustainability.
However, Europe’s proposed changes will negate all that work. Too often, European legislation is simply unfit for purpose; meanwhile, other countries that claim that parts of the legislation do not suit their situation or culture are granted derogations. That is why we need to establish a united front and lobby the UK Government, demanding that Scotland sends her own representative to argue our case.
Scotland’s fishermen have seen dramatic changes in the industry since the 1970s. They have led on conservation, have worked to reduce discards and want to ensure that the industry is heritable, but the threat of ill-informed legislation from Europe, the dramatically increased quotas for Iceland and the Faroes that have already been mentioned and climate change, which is affecting sea temperature and species, are of enormous concern and represent a disincentive to young people who might be attracted into the industry.
On derogation, I can cite as an example the ferries review that happened when Scotland was badly represented by, as I remember, a land-bound MP with no experience of ferries. That cost Scotland dear in comparison with other countries. For example, Greece—another nation of islands—sought and was granted a derogation. It was able to continue to run and subsidise a ferry service fit for purpose for the country, whereas we did not seek derogation, ignoring the numerous ferries that we have in Scotland, and paid the price by having to undertake a costly exercise in putting our ferry services out to tender.
- Liam McArthur:
I find the area that Jean Urquhart has roamed into slightly strange. In Scotland, we have a landlocked transport minister who is playing havoc with the ferry services to the Northern Isles. As I am sure that she realises, as a Highlands and Islands MSP, that may come back through her mailbag to haunt her.
- Jean Urquhart:
That is simply not true. I do not want to enter into a debate about ferries; I simply used the example to show that derogation is possible in any European policy that is put forward. The other argument is for another day, and I will happily take it on at that time.
I believe that, if we get fisheries policy right, we can see the industry stabilise, develop and continue for future generations. Fish is part of a healthy diet, 30 per cent of our exports, part of our culture and part of our economic future, and part of our work in this place is to secure and sustain the industry. That is less than likely if we cannot directly negotiate the terms of the CFP. I plead to the other parties in the Parliament that we unite in asking that we have Scottish representation, in stating that our cabinet secretary is the best person to make the case, and in supporting the case.
- Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD):
I broadly agreed with the minister’s introduction this morning. I strongly agree with many of the points that he made about the industry.
Mr Lochhead mentioned in his opening remarks the changes to the fleet that have happened under successive Governments. Since 2007, we have seen the number of white-fish trawlers greater than 10m—in other words, the majority of the fleet—fall by 17 per cent. As I am sure the minister was reflecting in his remarks, the changes have happened under successive Governments, and it is important to remember that in the context of our debate.
For me, and particularly for the islands that I represent in Parliament, the main requirement of the minister is that, in considering common fisheries policy reform, he ensures that the financial viability of our fleet is paramount. For men and women, families and communities in places such as Whalsay and Burra, and right across Shetland, what happens with the policy and how the minister negotiates on behalf of this Parliament and his Government are fundamental. Their livelihoods depend on it. In his own way, the minister reflected that argument in his opening remarks, with which I agree, but I hope that, in everything that he does on the issue, he concentrates absolutely on the financial viability of the boats.
- Dave Thompson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP):
I agree that the cabinet secretary must do all that he can to negotiate the best deal for Scotland’s fishermen, but does the member not agree that his hand would be greatly strengthened if he was leading the UK delegation or, better still, leading an independent Scottish delegation?
- Tavish Scott:
As Mr Lochhead made clear in his opening remarks, as a party arguing the UK case he should be comfortable arguing the whole of the UK case. If he was confident in his facts and figures—which I am sure Mr Lochhead is—he would have no problem dealing with the Wash, the Irish Sea or other areas. Mr Thompson should have a little more confidence in his minister instead of running him down so much.
I want to make three points in what is an important debate for us all: on regionalisation, aquaculture, and discards, which have had a good airing already.
On regionalisation, Graeme Dey got it right and made a very reasoned argument. As far as I can tell, the Commission envisages a system in which decisions on objectives, targets, minimum standards and timescales continue to be taken at European Commission level. It sees a greater management role for producer organisations—a point on which I would like the minister to reflect, as there can be some advantages in that. However, I recall Richard Lochhead, in an earlier life, describing the regional advisory councils as “toothless talking shops”. Whatever comes out of this particular proposal, if those advisory councils—I believe that they will no longer be called regional—continue to be of that ilk rather than proper bodies with management structures that can work with the industry and Government to achieve the reform that we need, I suspect that what Richard Lochhead said may continue to be the case. There must be a strong drive to achieve more in that area.
On aquaculture, I agree strongly with my good friend Alex Fergusson, who was in dangerous territory in linking himself to a celebrity chef, although he added the caveat about him being the best man of some relation of his. The point that he, Elaine Murray and one or two other members have made this morning is fundamentally correct. Celebrity chefs have a lot more power than we do—certainly individually, but probably collectively as well—but there is no need for them to go on television and present classically simplistic solutions as being the ultimate idea in constructing the future of a policy that is, by definition, complex and difficult. I strongly support the members who made that argument this morning. I hope that Mr Lochhead, who will be much more able than the rest of us to do so, will hold discussions with that one celebrity chef in particular and will take him to a Peterhead trawler to point out the reality of his suggested policy, so that it can be seen for what it is, even if it makes for good television.
Mr Fergusson made another point about aquaculture. He will recall, from the visit that we paid to Norway back in 2002, when he was the convener of the Rural Affairs Committee, that Norway is very good at pushing its trade interests at the European Union level. Not that long ago, we had a major trade dispute with Norway over salmon farming and the EU absolutely caved in. That was not in the Scottish interest at all. No matter what the Scottish or UK Government did on that issue, it was the Commission that caved in. Therefore, I would be reluctant to see the European Commission take a big role in aquaculture. Frankly, the industry is getting on fine without the involvement of the European Union.
Many members have made strong arguments on the proposed discards ban; however, what is proposed is akin to banning the symptoms of an illness rather than treating the illness and addressing its causes. That is the challenge for the minister and the people who work under him, and I ask him to clarify the position on the science behind the proposal. I asked him about the science earlier and I welcomed his response. Although page 157 of the budget document shows that the level of funding for Marine Scotland is falling—inevitably, given the position that we are in—the narrative beneath the figures states that the Government plans to continue to strengthen funding in the area of sea-fish research. Given the threat to our fish stocks of an automatic 25 per cent cut in quotas, it would be helpful to those of us who are concerned about how science funding will be allocated in future and, more to the point, to the industry if the minister could clarify—not today, but in the coming weeks—what his department plans to do to ensure that our science is as good as it can be to help our industry to confront what, in my view, is a serious threat to the economic viability of the fleet, as I mentioned at the start of my speech.
In conclusion, I ask the minister to ensure that, in his negotiations on the common fisheries policy, the Shetland box—which is important to my constituency as well as to the industry—is protected. It is not mentioned in the reform proposal. I would be grateful if he could establish what the position is and ensure that the protection of that designation is maintained.
- Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP):
This motion, which deals with our historic fishing rights, promoting Scottish seafood and giving greater power to fishing nations to manage their fisheries and protect the marine environment, has a major bearing on how the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee will deal with its business in this regard. The annual debate about fishing allows us to review how Scotland is faring but, with a new form proposed for the common fisheries policy, it is also essential to recognise the part that we can play in showing that Scotland is in the lead and in underpinning the argument for Scotland needing a seat at the top table in making these decisions.
Sustainable management is at the root of what we are talking about. That is why I am glad to see that stocks of west coast haddock are on the rise and can make a fishery for the future.
Pioneering work on fish conservation, not only offshore but also inshore, shows that we are making progress. A number of examples have been given of how the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability status can improve a fishery. This example is not a positive story but a salutary lesson. Scotland’s Loch Torridon langoustine, or nephrops, fishery was withdrawn from the scheme in July. The suspension came after fishing pressure in the area increased due to additional creel fishing boats being attracted to the fishery. The Torridon group was unable—by itself or with the relevant management bodies—to establish management control over the fishery. An argument between creelers and trawlers ensued, following the announcement, so we must ensure that Marine Scotland management areas and inshore fishery groups work together to ensure that a combined fishery is sustainable. The standard of Loch Torridon langoustines is excellent and provides a benchmark for the fishery, which is one over which we have complete control. There are areas in which we can take forward Scotland’s pioneering fish conservation ourselves.
In the context of the common fisheries policy, we must look at ways of ensuring that fishery-dependent areas, which Jenny Marra mentioned, get some special treatment. In my constituency, the ports of Lochinver, Kinlochbervie and Scrabster are major participants in the fishery. From Lochinver, the participants are foreign boats, from Kinlochbervie there are one or two local boats—much reduced from the past—and in Scrabster there are boats with links to the Faroe Islands and other places. The latter has been having a relatively good time. The point is that they have been adding value in Scrabster and doing what the Government asked. They made sure that they are providing a service of which the fishing industry can be proud.
On looking after our better fisheries, we should look no further than Aberdeen University’s study of the use of CCTV on our fishing boats. The comparison of observation by students and CCTV shows that the approach is one that we can propose to the rest of the EU. At present, only Denmark and Scotland are adopting this approach, but if it is not a factor in discussions on the CFP, we will be missing a trick.
Much mention of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests that we should use his ability to get publicity—it was on BBC 1 after all and one must be entertaining on that. We should bring him into discussions here. That would allow us to take forward the issues around a mixed fishery, and he could articulate them. I do not see why we should not trumpet our ability to differentiate in considering how this should work and get some celebrity chefs on our side. The arguments about scandalous waste go on and there must be solutions, which we want to lead.
Relative stability in catches is at the heart of much of the historic rights argument for Scottish fisheries. Comparisons with how the Norwegians manage their fisheries, with different types of fishing boats, are interesting. Norway is, of course, outside the EU, but it is one of the countries with which we have to negotiate every year. We could learn from its ability to manage its fisheries and emulate its approach in Scotland, given our large proportion of the EU fish catch. If it is not possible for the EU to set up a clear form of decentralisation, which members have been debating, it is no wonder that the common fisheries policy is described, as it is in the motion, as being a “failed” policy. Scotland does not deserve to be party to a failed policy when we have such a large part of the EU catch.
The motion is correct. It is a great time for negotiation, but there is an opportunity in the Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee to view some of the issues and to add to the body of knowledge—and, indeed, to the body of argument—through the allies that we can make. There are allies not just in celebrity chefs, but in other countries in Europe that want to help.
- Mark McDonald (North East Scotland) (SNP):
Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, I try to believe six impossible things before breakfast. Two such things that I considered this morning were that the EU would accept that the CFP is redundant and that a UK Government minister would arrive at EU negotiations with Scotland’s best interests at heart. I think that we must accept that both scenarios are highly unlikely.
I want to address the point that the Labour Party appears to be making about Scotland being better represented in the EU as part of the UK, and the notion of the Scottish role in the common fisheries policy. If we could play a full part in EU negotiations on reform of the CFP or otherwise, we might end up with a policy that would suit Scotland and its fishing interests. Currently, we have no role in that, and we are not able to head the UK delegation to ensure that our voice is heard. As a result, the Scottish Parliament loses out. When EU legislation affects devolved matters such as fisheries, the Scottish Parliament loses legislative power and accountability. If the minister does not lead on behalf of the Scottish fishing industry, the Parliament has an issue in how we hold the minister to account for decisions that affect the Scottish fishing fleet but are made in the European Union. An accountability gap is created.
I entirely understand the point that is made that, if we were to become an independent nation, we would effectively be a small fish in a big pond, but at the moment we are essentially a small fish inside the stomach of a large fish. We can talk and shout as much as we want to, but at the end of the day, nobody hears us, and it is not our voice that speaks when negotiations are undertaken.
- Elaine Murray:
Does the member accept that, as a common fisheries policy will be implemented in January 2013 and the SNP will not even have had its referendum by then, the UK as the national state will have to negotiate and therefore the most important thing that we can do is to convince the UK that the Scottish interest is its interest? That is the purpose of our amendment.
- Mark McDonald:
Therefore, the most important thing is that the lead minister in the negotiations is the Scottish minister. I welcome Elaine Murray’s acknowledgment that, as long as the UK is negotiating on Scotland’s behalf for such a vital Scottish interest, it must be the Scottish minister who is at the top table.
As long as we are party to the CFP, we must ensure that it is designed in a way that works best—or in the least worst way—for our fishermen and fishing communities. I think that there is cross-party consensus that the common fisheries policy is not good for Scotland and its fishermen. That is why in some respects I struggle to reconcile Elaine Murray’s contention that we must trust the UK Government to have our nation’s interests at heart with her concerns—which I share—that tradeable fishing quotas could have a potentially devastating impact on the Scottish industry. Given that, according to the cabinet secretary, the UK Government seems to be persuaded or, indeed, seduced by that approach, it strikes me that a potential logical non sequitur is at play. Even allowing for Alex Fergusson’s understandable caveat on how tradeable quotas could potentially be implemented, we can probably rely on history to instruct us that, when it comes to the EU and the UK operating on behalf of Scotland—or supposedly on its behalf—the wrong choice is usually made. We should therefore probably be very cautious about tradeable quotas.
The cabinet secretary referred to the infamous Tory memorandum that said of Scotland’s fishing fleet that
“in the wider UK context, they must be regarded as expendable”.
Interestingly, Murdo Fraser seems to have reached the same conclusion about the Scottish Conservatives. Alex Johnstone said that the Labour Party is implicated in this situation as well. I accept that Labour does not have a glowing record when it comes to standing up for the Scottish fishing fleet.
The figures show that 70 per cent of the UK catch is landed in Scotland and that, in 2009, 38.4 per cent was landed in ports in the north-east. Between 1997 and 2009, there was a nearly 90 per cent decline in landings at Aberdeen and an 8.5 per cent decline in Fraserburgh. That was linked entirely to demersals and the impact that total allowable catches and quotas had on those stocks. There was a modest increase of 2.7 per cent in the landings at Peterhead, which I suspect we can link to the pelagic sector, which has undergone a phenomenal increase. Nevertheless, overall, there was a 16.3 per cent decline in the number of fish landed at north-east ports. Obviously, that has had a devastating impact on fishing communities across the north-east, as any member who represents that area or has visited those communities will know. That is why tradeable quotas represent a threat to our smaller ports. If the worst-case scenario is borne out, large amounts of quota will be purchased from Scottish fishermen—who will take the opportunity to make money by selling their quota, as they would be perfectly entitled to do—without there being any guarantee that that quota of fish will be landed in Scottish ports, which would mean that the ports would suffer. If there is a decline in the number of ports due to closure, the industry is unlikely to be viable. If quotas are sold, the ports might decline to such a state that they are incapable of coping with landings in the future. That is a vicious circle that could lead to significant problems for the industry.
There can be no doubt that the UK Government’s record on negotiating for Scotland and Scotland’s fishing fleet is lamentable, if not disgraceful. That is why it is vital that we go further than simply ensuring that the Scottish Government works with the UK Government. I fully accept that the cabinet secretary will do all that he can to persuade UK ministers to take Scotland’s interests to heart, but the sad fact is that, once the UK minister sits down at the table, all the persuading that the cabinet secretary will have done will matter nothing while that minister trades away Scotland’s rights and fishing fleet. We absolutely must have a situation in which the cabinet secretary is the man at the table who is negotiating on behalf of Scotland’s fishing industry, whether that be as the head of the UK delegation or—my preference—of an independent Scottish delegation.
- Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab):
I am pleased to have the chance to speak in this debate, to listen to other members and to try to find a way forward, and to support Elaine Murray’s amendment. I am reassured by the cabinet secretary’s words on the amendment—perhaps I am being too optimistic, but that remains to be seen.
As has already been acknowledged, this is a complex issue and, frankly, quite challenging for a new member who is not on the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee. However, I want to highlight principles and issues in relation to sustainability, and to speak up for my region, South Scotland.
Fishing communities in South Scotland, in which more than 700 people are employed in vessels, can often be overlooked. Much of the employment is in small-scale fishing. In Eyemouth district, 148 regular workers and 45 part-time workers are employed on vessels. In 2010, the district saw total landings of more than 2,000 tonnes, with a value of £5.5 million. In smaller ports, there is a real opportunity to develop local traceability further, such as we have seen in meat production. I certainly enjoyed the best fish supper ever in Eyemouth last week, looking out over the sea after a walk around the harbour. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, and net-to-plate identification has a strong resonance.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation indicated that it supports the idea in the CFP green paper of small-scale fishing matters being dealt with by member states rather than through EU legislation. However, although the importance of small-scale fleets is acknowledged in the CFP proposals, the SFF is concerned that great care should be taken to ensure that nothing that is prejudicial to small-scale fleets appears in the subsequent legislation. The SFF stressed that the issue is not just regulation but ensuring that the proposals that are expected in November on financial support for the new CFP take account of small-scale fleets. Will the cabinet secretary reassure members that he will carefully consider how best to protect fishing communities that are away from the main ports?
The cabinet secretary stressed regionalisation, and the concerns that Graeme Dey expressed about legality are worrying. Greater regional control of fisheries is important. The SFF welcomes such a move and wants the measures to be
“robust and provide the opportunity for meaningful management on a local scale.”
The environmental NGOs also support decentralisation. WWF talked of the need to
“harness the expertise of local stakeholders who are best placed to draw up and implement plans for their fisheries to deliver high-level EU objectives.”
From my limited experience, having been involved in discussions some years ago about a Solway marine park, I have learned that the coming together of different interests and perspectives in coastal communities is essential if we are to find a sustainable way forward—that applies in the context of coastal farming, renewable marine energy, tourism and much more.
Investment is a necessity. RSPB said that there is a need for
“investment in fisheries and marine science, and in fit-for-purpose data collection, monitoring and compliance”.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Trust recently funded a remote electronic monitoring research project at the University of Aberdeen—Rob Gibson mentioned the research at Aberdeen. The findings of the evaluating observer effects in discard sampling project will contribute to the way forward on discard reduction.
The issue is complex, as all members have said. Without the science, and without recognition from the EU that issues must be resolved in a sustainable way that does the least hurt to our fishing industry, we are on a hiding to nothing. EU financial support for the industry is imperative if we are to find a sustainable way forward. Will the minister reassure us that he is fighting for such support?
The RSBP—sorry, RSPB; I am dyslexic—said:
“investment will result in a financially viable, successful industry, free from discards, and ensure that fleet capacity is balanced with available resources.”
As the CFP is shaped we must work together at all levels in the context of an ecosystems approach that—among other things—rewards people who fish in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner and minimises hardship for the people in the industry who are negatively affected. I make a big plea to the cabinet secretary to show support in the forthcoming negotiations for the resilience of smaller fishing communities in South Scotland and throughout Scotland.
- Roderick Campbell (North East Fife) (SNP):
During the recess, I had the opportunity to visit the Scottish fisheries museum in my constituency. I was struck not only by the enormous size of the museum but by the sense of an industry that has had to adapt again and again to survive. Fisheries were not and are not an industry for the faint-hearted, especially given that the common fisheries policy has failed Scotland’s fisheries and the marine habitats that provide fishing opportunities.
Scotland’s marine fisheries are an important resource. As we know, about £430 million-worth of fish was landed in Scotland last year and the Scottish fleet employs more than 5,200 fishermen. Direct employment in catching, aquaculture and processing amounts to 19,800, which is just shy of 1 per cent of all Scottish employment. If one considers indirect economic activity, the total number of jobs that depend on those sectors rises to 48,000, which is equivalent to about 50 per cent of the direct and indirect employment that depended on North Sea oil at its peak, so the industry is big and important for Scotland and is a key provider of goods and employment.
We have a reputation for high-quality seafood that is increasing Scottish fish sales abroad. Our seas present us with a multitude of valuable opportunities. I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to keep up efforts to secure Marine Stewardship Council sustainability status for more Scottish stocks.
Fishing is important to Scotland but, as the cabinet secretary said, we as a country have no separate voice at the negotiating table in Brussels and no automatic or statutory right to be part of the UK delegation that attends relevant European Union meetings. This summer, in papers that proposed amendments to the Scotland Bill, the Scottish Government said that it wanted that position to be changed. The Parliament should support that proposal. The Opposition parties want us
“to work closely with the UK Government”,
but working closely depends on mutual respect, which would be enhanced if those parties accepted the automatic right to be part of the delegation.
Unfortunately, Scotland’s fishing stocks are a sorely mismanaged resource. Since 1964, North Sea cod stocks have reduced by 59 per cent and haddock numbers have fallen by 57 per cent. A greater abundance of fish makes fishing effort easier. Good conservation is good for our fishermen.
The management framework that the common fisheries policy provides has failed. Our fish stocks and the economic opportunities that they provide are under threat. The collapse of fish stocks would represent an unacceptable loss of opportunity for our nation’s future generations. The common fisheries policy has failed because it is removed from the communities on which it impinges. The absurdity of fish discards that are equivalent to 25 to 33 per cent of fish that are landed has stripped away all the CFP’s credibility as a means to conserve our marine stocks.
The fundamental fact is that fishing communities need to be given more responsibility for their local resources. Despite any proposed safeguards, selling transferable fishing quotas on an international market might only make bad management worse. In extreme situations, Scottish fishermen might sell their quotas because of poverty, which could lead to a decline in already hard-pressed fishing ports.
Our fishermen will respond most quickly to a conservation mechanism that involves them and motivates them to adhere to and support the policy. The policy’s obvious objectives are to ensure that there are healthy fish stocks that provide fishermen with a secure occupation and—more than that—that there is an abundance of fish, which will ensure that fishing effort is better rewarded than it is for pursuing the skeletal remains of the shoals that once swam in the North Sea.
It is obvious that the fishing industry desires stocks that are healthy enough to provide a reliable catch in the future. Fisheries science has been discredited by association with the quota system. Throwing good-quality fish overboard does nothing to preserve stocks but might be the practical result of decisions by policy makers that ignore the best scientific evidence. The scientists who provide us with the ability to comprehend what goes on under the waves must be listened to. The infamous Grand Banks saga in Newfoundland provides a clear enough example of what can go wrong when science is ignored.
However, it is not only scientists who can deliver useful evidence that can help to conserve fish stocks. Scottish initiatives such as real-time closures represent positive steps forward. Passing to fishermen responsibility for avoiding spawning cod, for example, makes the industry responsible for its future. Taking spawning fish out of the water reduces population recruitment.
Instead of focusing, as previous conservation measures have, on net size, which may not be reducing mortality in the smaller fish that should pass through nets unharmed, and instead of focusing on species quotas, we should focus on preserving breeding fish. Fishermen need to be involved in the conservation process. Putting power in the hands of those who need it—those who rely on fish stocks—is a form of subsidiarity that will achieve results.
Regionalism is a good concept, but the EU should set broad principles and leave the management decisions to the fishing nations. Fishing policy should not be about quantifying natural resources into time quotas, standardised nets and graphs that look good in a Brussels office. Cod are not standardised lengths. We need to allow cod the space to live and fishermen the time to make a living. However disagreeable we think discards might be, we should avoid the conclusion that a blanket ban is the answer. We need to heed the RSPB’s prevention-rather-than-cure advice, particularly in a mixed fishing environment, and we must engage with the industry on the issue. We need to encourage initiatives such as the conservation credit scheme and the catch quota scheme. We need a policy that is fit for the 21st century and the Scottish Government should be encouraged to develop that. The motion should be supported.
- Paul Wheelhouse (South Scotland) (SNP):
It will not surprise members that, with a name like mine—Wheelhouse—the fishing industry is not one that I forget in a hurry. Alex Johnstone talked about the transition between Labour and Conservative Governments in the 1970s. The reference to the fishing sector being expendable relates to Ted Heath’s Administration when it was negotiating entry to the European Community, as it was then. In those negotiations, the Government of the time declared that the industry was expendable.
- Alex Johnstone:
As Paul Wheelhouse is a new member of the Parliament, I am sure that he is not aware that I have never defended anything that that Prime Minister ever did.
- Paul Wheelhouse:
On that, we have common cause.
In a similar vein to Claudia Beamish, I will unashamedly refer to my constituents in South Scotland and in particular to the community along the Berwickshire coast around Eyemouth. As members might be aware, on 14 October 1881, there was a great fishing disaster off the east coast of Scotland. The day is known locally as black Friday, because 189 fishermen lost their lives off the coast of Berwickshire and East Lothian. From Eyemouth alone, 129 fishermen died, leaving 92 widows and 263 fatherless children. The men sailed that day despite dire warnings from the fisher king, Willie Spears, who was a famous man from Eyemouth, and utter disaster followed with a perfect storm engulfing them. It took more than 100 years for the population of Eyemouth to recover, but it was still an important fishing port in the 1970s and 1980s.
The significance of the fishing industry to the region and to Eyemouth is reflected in the annual herring queen festival in the town. Tragically, though, as I will discuss further later, no herring at all are landed in Eyemouth today. Graeme Dey referred to the substantial decline since 1998 in the pelagic and demersal fleets. I will focus on Eyemouth to give members a sense of how serious the decline in fishing has been at local level. In 2010, there were just 105 vessels in Eyemouth and district, which is down from 133 in 1990 and 164 in 1980. As recently as 1990, there were estimated to be 75 to 80 vessels using Eyemouth. At a recent meeting with representatives of the fishing sector in Eyemouth before the election, at which Richard Lochhead was present, we were told that an estimated 20 to 24 vessels now use Eyemouth. That puts in perspective the sheer collapse in the number of vessels using what was, and still is locally, an important resource.
By 2010, just 193 fishermen were left in the whole of Eyemouth and district, which extends well beyond Berwickshire and goes up into the Lothians, including North Berwick, Dunbar and other ports. As Claudia Beamish said, only 148 of those fishermen are full time. That is a decline from 1980, when there were 591 fishermen in the area. That puts in perspective the sheer collapse in the scale of the local industry, which has profound impacts not only on the community of Eyemouth, but on the local fish processing sector, which is entirely dependent on fish being landed in the harbour or being brought to the harbour by road to sustain its activities.
By 2010, a £5.5 million catch was landed in Eyemouth and district, of which £5.4 million was in shellfish. Of that, £1.4 million was lobsters, and £3.2 million was nephrops—mainly Norwegian langoustine, which are principally sold to Europe. Although it is a lucrative market that is a dramatic change from past days.
No herring are landed in Eyemouth now. In fact, on the pelagic side, a total of 25 tonnes of mackerel were landed in 2010. There is virtually no pelagic catch. Haddock and demersal catch was down from 1,123 tonnes at the beginning of the decade to just 103 tonnes by 2010. To highlight the impact of the CFP, I note that 5,952 tonnes of demersal fish were landed in Eyemouth and district in 1980. The pelagic catch was only 2 tonnes in that year because, as other members have said, the herring catch was stopped in the 1970s. Shellfish catch has increased slightly from 1,512 tonnes to 1,902.
In the 1970s, there was the following description of Eyemouth:
“By this time, there were relatively few large markets concentrated in the major fishing harbours ... Eyemouth is the most important fishing centre in the southeast of Scotland.”
By the 1980s, that had been downgraded to:
“Eyemouth is the largest base for the South East of Scotland fleet.”
By the 1990s, Eyemouth is described as
“the largest fishing port, in terms of catch volume and value, along the Scottish east coast south of Aberdeen.”
Anyone looking at Eyemouth today would struggle to define the town in those terms. In the past year, we have lost four boats, and we are down to about 20 boats. The decline continues apace.
Like Claudia Beamish, I very much welcome the recognition by WWF Scotland, RSPB Scotland and other environmental bodies of not only the conservation dimension to the debate but the economic value of the sector. Indeed, WWF stresses that it needs
“to ensure that the reform improves the health of Scottish seas and the long-term profitability of the fishing industry”.
It is often portrayed as being a black-and-white debate, with conservationists versus fishermen, but the conservation bodies recognise that it is no longer that simple and that there is mutual interest in preserving fishing stocks and, as Rod Campbell indicated, ensuring that there is a viable fleet for the future.
I hope that members recognise the profound scale of impact of the CFP. It has been worse for the area of Eyemouth than the perfect storm of 1881.
- John Pentland (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab):
I am sure that members will agree that my constituency, Motherwell and Wishaw, is not commonly associated with the fishing industry. However, there are connections beyond the consumption of kippers for breakfast and haddock suppers.
Historically, Ravenscraig was the heart of the Scottish steel industry, supplying the raw materials for shipbuilding. We know what it is like to live in a community that is built around a particular commodity, facing an uncertain and unpromising future, so I have a lot of sympathy for our fishing communities. I recognise the importance of creating and safeguarding a viable, community-focused fishing industry. That needs to be at the heart of the common fisheries policy.
The long-term needs of communities that rely on fishing can be met only by establishing and developing policies and practices that protect and promote sustainable fishing. If we cannot protect fish stocks and allow overfished species to recover, our fishing communities will continue to struggle.
Climate change presents major challenges to marine ecosystems, and we must be wary of the combined impact of overfishing, climate change and the use of destructive and damaging fishing practices, particularly in breeding and nursery areas. The CFP has not been adequate to that task. It has allowed poor management of stocks and short-term fixes that create long-term problems of overcapacity fleets, overfished waters, rules that are disregarded and fish that are discarded. The new proposals are a step in the right direction, in that they put conservation and long-term management of species at maximum sustainable yields at the heart of the policy, but they are not yet sufficiently robust to ensure that those objectives are met.
We still need to put some flesh on the bones of the new CFP. We need workable mechanisms, definitive timescales and allocated responsibilities to turn a laudable wish into a practical reality. An essential element is the creation of clear mechanisms for regional fisheries management to support the fishing industry and communities while protecting the long-term ecological viability of fish stocks.
As for discards, commercialisation is clearly a second best to not catching the unwanted fish. Changes in fishing gear can be augmented by increasingly sophisticated technology to ensure better-targeted catches and to avoid the bycatch of non-target species.
It is essential that the EU fishing quotas are based on scientific advice, but the application of the quotas should take account of social and environmental impacts and include measures to address the hardship that can be caused.
The adoption of more sustainable fishing practices should be supported not only through help and advice to the fleet but through fishing rights. Trading rights should not be regarded simply as a market-driven means to promote more efficient operations but ought to be controlled to encourage those who operate in the most sustainable manner.
The marine environment is very important to Scotland. Two thirds of UK fish are landed here and we have done much to protect our marine environment through Scottish legislation, but there is only so much that can be done at this level. We need coherent, focused and workable agreements at European and global level.
My participation in the debate has been without any expert knowledge of fishing communities or the CFP, but I know about the consequences when a community loses a particular commodity on which it is so dependent. Let us get this right. I just wish that we could put aside the political carping. I hope that the common fisheries policy can become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
- Dave Thompson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP):
Very often, our common fisheries policy debates are dominated by doom and gloom, and we have heard some of that today, but I have some good news to tell the chamber—after I add just a little bit to the doom and gloom.
Fishermen in my constituency, in Avoch and in Mallaig and the west coast, are still struggling very badly. They have been hit hard by high and increasing fuel costs in particular—some of the larger vessels in the fleet are having to find as much as £100,000 extra a year just for fuel. I know that the cabinet secretary understands that and I wonder whether he would support an increase in the de minimis aid limit to alleviate those very high fuel costs—that is something worth thinking about.
Another area where we can make progress, as the cabinet secretary has already acknowledged, is the haddock quota, or the current lack of it, on the west coast. Even the scientists now agree that there are plenty of haddock. I look forward to a realistic haddock quota on the west coast for next year.
As I said, I also have some good news. A little over a year ago, I was very grateful when Richard Lochhead, our cabinet secretary for fisheries and so on, agreed to accompany me to Mallaig, where I had arranged a meeting with the Mallaig and North West Fishermen’s Association. We met a group of fishermen who were worried about what the future held for their industry and whether they would be able to pass on their way of life to their children as their fathers had passed it on to them. As a Lossie loon, fae a fishin toun, ah kent jist far they wir comin fae.
John Hermse, the secretary of the association, and his fellow members took the opportunity to make clear to the cabinet secretary their concerns for the future and their frustration that their quotas were being cut year on year, threatening the continued existence of many boats and the future of fishing on the west coast. One of the key issues that members of the group raised was their desire to promote their catch to UK consumers because, habitually—certainly in recent years—most of their landings have been bought by buyers from southern Europe, where the high quality of such Scottish produce is recognised and prized. To his credit, the cabinet secretary agreed to do what he could to help to market their wonderful fresh prawns and langoustines to the UK market.
A few weeks ago, I was delighted to hear that that additional help was paying off and that talks were far advanced with two major UK supermarket chains about supplying high-quality fresh prawns from the west coast to hundreds of supermarkets all over the UK. Earlier this week, news of the deal with Sainsbury’s leaked out and we now know that consumers at 500 of Sainsbury’s 800 UK stores will soon see a new premium product on the fish counter, which will be sold as fresh Scottish west coast langoustines.
The impact of that deal goes much further than merely providing a new customer for our west coast fishermen. It will highlight the fact that the products in question are not French or Mediterranean delicacies but ones that originate here and which are part of Scotland’s fantastic larder. I am sure that there are many people in Scotland who think that it is possible to get langoustines only when they are on holiday abroad.
I am sure that, through their advertising, Sainbury’s and others will seek to emphasise the quality of their new products, which can only enhance the reputation of our seafood and lead to more business and better prices for our fishermen. If, in turn, that leads more people to seek out the very best produce from our seas and farms, that can only be good news for our food producers, which will give them the confidence to expand and develop their businesses. Such endorsement of a traditional and sustainable source of employment for fragile communities will, I hope, encourage others in similar traditional professions to seek wider recognition and reward for their endeavours.
The west coast community has always had an entrepreneurial edge, and the confidence and financial security that such a major supermarket order brings will, I am sure, encourage greater investment in the onshore infrastructure that is needed to service a greater demand for its landings.
To add to the good news for the fishing communities of the north-west, I am delighted to have been told of plans for a pilot programme to introduce courses leading to a Scottish Qualifications Authority qualification in maritime skills for fifth and sixth-year pupils at six secondary schools in the north-west Highlands. The new courses will be introduced in partnership with Highland Council’s skills for work programme and have been made possible through financial support from the Highlands and Islands Fish Industry Training Association. Given that funds are being provided to help to train future generations of fishermen and women, I hope that we are beginning to see evidence of more confidence in the future of this important industry than has been witnessed in the north of Scotland for many years.
I thank the cabinet secretary and his officials for taking the time to join me in Mallaig to meet the fishermen a year ago and for assisting the fishing community in moving the matter forward.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott):
We move to closing speeches. We have quite a bit of time in hand, so Alex Johnstone has a very generous six minutes.
- Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con):
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. It is always nice to have a bit of extra time; I hope that I have something constructive to say during it.
The minister began by talking about the importance of the fishing industry and the courage of the men who are involved in it. I would always pay tribute to that and to the courage of the wives and families who are left at home when boats are at sea in extremely difficult conditions.
We all know that the economic importance of the fishing industry for Scotland is several orders of magnitude greater than its economic importance for the rest of the UK. If we look at the issue in greater detail, we see that it is the tendency for the industry to be concentrated in towns in relatively rural or distant areas that lie at the end of long supply lines that explains why it is so crucial in some key areas. That applies not only to the fishing industry but to the aquaculture industry, which has become of much greater importance than has been the case in the past. One of my concerns relates to the proposals to include aquaculture in the CFP, to which I hope to return.
To see the importance of fishing, we need only look as far as the changes in my party’s structure that Murdo Fraser has suggested, which one or two speakers, including the minister, mentioned. I raise that because, at his campaign launch, Murdo Fraser singled out the fishing industry as a key example of an issue on which Scottish needs differ from those of the rest of the UK and on which the Conservative Party in future may need to have a more flexible and workable position to do what is best for Scotland. That demonstrates the importance of finding cross-party agreement on what is important for Scotland.
- Elaine Murray:
I am slightly confused by Alex Johnstone’s reference to Murdo Fraser, because I thought that Murdo Fraser’s new party would advocate withdrawal from the CFP.
- Alex Johnstone:
That is not what we are discussing. I raised the subject merely because the minister raised it.
The Conservative Party is aware of the need for cross-party working on the CFP, which is why we will vote for the Government’s motion whether or not it is amended. However, we will also support the Labour Party amendment. As we pointed out, that amendment is virtually identical to the one that was proposed by my colleague Alex Fergusson, which was not selected for debate—understandably so, in the circumstances.
The reason why we will vote for the motion and amendment is that we have grave concerns about the future of the industry. If we look at the relationship between the scientific evidence and the decisions that politicians make, we see that scientists and politicians, with the best interests at heart, far too often find themselves in diverging positions. The science can often be used to prove more than one thing and, when the politicians have become involved over the years, the micromanagement of the science and of the industry has resulted in many decisions being made for the best possible reasons but without delivering the results that the Scottish industry requires.
The proposal to move towards a system of maximum sustainable yields has its attractions but, as we know, the problem with the science in the past has been a failure to apply general principles in a way that produces significant improvements for the industry. For instance, the failure to understand the cannibalistic habits of the white-fish population in its immature phase meant that the failure to get the 1999 year class of haddock out of the sea more quickly than we did was a contributing factor to the population diminishing again over time.
We need to take a more holistic approach and treat the science with respect, but decisions need to be taken for the good of the industry by politicians who understand it. That is why the proposal to move towards regionalisation—devolution of decision making—within the common fisheries policy is important. Even if we accept the principle of common access to a common resource, there are people within the EU whose interests are not those of the fishermen in the marginal areas on the periphery of north-west Europe. That describes many people who rely on our fishery for their incomes. We must have the authority to do what is right for them, and it breaks my heart that the European green paper that was published more than 10 years ago and originally proposed a move to a regional management structure was so watered down by the time that it was enacted that all we got was regional management committees. We need to go back to that green paper and try to achieve the objective that it set out.
One key area of discussion in the debate has been discards. We all understand the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall approach, which is that there should be no discards. Maria Damanaki appears to have taken up that approach with a vengeance, but the many members present who understand the industry know that it is not universally achievable.
I suppose that it would be possible to ban discards entirely if we regulated, but the problem is that we could create a market in the fish that were previously discarded and we do not want that to happen. The last thing that we want is for the industry to become based on its waste. We want higher-value catches to be sold at high values. Although we must do everything we can to reduce discards, the idea that they can be prevented entirely is not a good thing for the industry.
We have to think about how the proposals on the transfer of fishing concessions will impact on our industry. Members will be aware that I defend free trade whenever I can, and I will continue to do so, but the idea that fishing concessions might be traded internationally on a one-to-one basis or between member states is undesirable for an industry in Scotland that must not be allowed to sink below critical mass. As we have heard from other speakers, our fishing industry has been successfully managed down in size, and its catching potential has been reduced and largely matched to the availability of fish. If we now enter into an EU-wide arrangement that continues to exert downward pressure on our industry, we will be in danger of losing it. We cannot afford to take that step, so there must be protection to ensure that the fishing quota that is in Scotland today stays in Scotland wherever possible.
There are several reasons why it might be beneficial for aquaculture to be brought under the umbrella of the CFP. I do not intend to go through those ideas, because I intend to introduce as much of an air of caution as I can. Scotland is one of the few European nations that engage in the salmon industry specifically. There are other types of aquaculture in other parts of Europe, and the idea that they can all be drawn together and regulated singly under one umbrella organisation is dangerous. I suggest that the evidence is in what has happened with the CFP.
- Stewart Stevenson:
Over the summer, I had the opportunity to meet the ministers from Chile and Norway who are responsible for their aquaculture industry. It was clear that there was a strong, shared sense of purpose about the value of that industry and its future potential. Does the member believe, as I do, that the most satisfactory way of addressing the interests of all three countries is through collaboration at ministerial and industry level rather than having another regime superimposed on the ability to deliver for our industry and the economy in Scotland?
- Alex Johnstone:
I am strongly attracted to that approach. The final issue that I want to talk about falls slightly outwith the discussion that we have been having, but it has been raised a couple of times: the effect of the unilateral decision by Iceland and the Faroe Islands to raise their allowable catch in the pelagic fishery in the north Atlantic.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer:
You must close now.
- Alex Johnstone:
We need to ensure that that is dealt with.
- Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab):
I welcome this timely debate. There are huge pressures on our fishing stocks. The EU Commissioner for the Environment recently produced a paper describing that pressure, with the world’s population quadrupling during the past century, output growing by 40 times and fish catches increasing by more than 35 times. There is massive pressure on our stocks and huge competition, so we need fair management.
Everyone agrees that the common fisheries policy is not fit for purpose, but what will replace it? As Elaine Murray pointed out, it is difficult to disagree with the principles that Commissioner Damanaki set out in July; the questions will all be about the design of the new system. The consensus in Scotland—which has been reflected in today’s debate—is that fishing interests, environment NGOs and fishing communities all want to see the detail.
From the Scottish perspective, everyone has stressed the importance of our fishing industry to our national economy and to the communities that are dependent on fishing, whether they be coastal communities that land fish or those that contain the companies that process our seafood and turn it into high-quality products. That is why we think that our fishing communities need to be at the heart of the debate, and that we must develop sustainable fishing industries for the future. We therefore support the move to regional fisheries management to support those communities and to ensure the long-term ecological viability of our fish stocks. Accountability and transparency are critical for the management of the stocks, and the CFP simply does not have those.
I was interested in members saying that they are nervous about aquaculture being part of the process. It is interesting to contrast those comments with the SSPO’s comment that it welcomes aquaculture being given a more prominent role in CFP reforms. It might be that it welcomes the importance of aquaculture being recognised rather than the detail, but that perhaps needs to be teased out. The SSPO’s view is that if global aquaculture production had not increased strongly since the early 1990s, there would be massive fish shortages across the world. Aquaculture is important both for Scotland and for the world’s need for fish.
Members across the chamber have acknowledged the major efforts that our fishing communities are making to ensure the sustainability of our fishing stocks and banning of wasteful discards. Again, everybody has stressed that the detail is crucial, particularly in a mixed fishery. That is why research on discards and the CCTV pilots are vital in providing evidence for making suggestions to the EU about what the framework might be. Jenny Marra was right to stress the importance of the science, which must be credible and correctly interpreted so that it stands up to scrutiny when it is presented to the EU.
We have condemned the practice of discarding for several years now, and there is massive public opposition to it. As the cabinet secretary said, the question is how we catch less but land more. He was, in that regard, right to look to the conservation measures that our fishing industry has implemented and to the dialogue between our environment NGOs and our fishing industry.
However, what happens next is the key issue. As we know, Commissioner Damanaki has flagged up that she wants to get rid of discarding. Claudia Beamish was right to speak up for consumers in that regard, who are demanding better information. However, we must work out the detail. Our fishing fleets have been working on increasing conservation management, but what happens next?
Rob Gibson was right to say that we need to find common cause with others on the issue rather than just discuss it here. I hope that the cabinet secretary will talk in his closing remarks about what is being done at European level to build support for getting the right policy on discards. There is an issue about persuading the EU. If we can mobilise huge numbers of consumers in the UK on the issue, cannot that be done in other European countries? There must be a way to ensure that the political pressure on us is translated into political action when the EU produces the new proposals. What is key is mobilisation of people’s concerns so that we get the right decisions.
The challenge for the Scottish Government is to work with the UK Government in order to ensure that we influence the development of the new fisheries management rules. Our amendment is not just about stating the facts but about building support across the chamber so that we influence the UK minister. The Labour Party is the Opposition not only here but at UK level. When I look across the chamber, I see not just the Scottish National Party Government but the coalition parties of the UK Government. Whether or not we like each other politically, we have a responsibility to lobby together for the best interests of Scotland, which involves everyone in the chamber using whatever political influence they have, whether that is us talking to our MEPs who are supportive, or other parties in the chamber talking to their UK ministers, and the cabinet secretary ensuring that he translates that support into action down south.
It is not just about the UK Government—important as it is, as a key block of the EU—but about what the other European states think. I have represented the UK in EU discussions, so I know that it is possible for us to have something deleted or vetoed if the EU feels that that will keep us quiet and let it concentrate on the big picture. However, the challenge is not just to veto a small point here or there but to influence the whole architecture of the next CFP. That must be our ambition. It is not about just deleting a line in the policy; it is about ensuring that the whole policy is infinitely better than what people must live with at the moment. That political challenge faces everyone and the burden rests particularly on the cabinet secretary’s shoulders as the person who is involved in the process. Given that, I would be grateful if he could tell us a bit more about his strategy for delivering on our collective ambitions.
Elaine Murray and Graeme Dey were right to highlight the Commission’s legal advice and to question whether we will get any meaningful devolution at all or whether the prize of regional fisheries management will be taken from us at the last moment, as the CFP is reformed. Surely that would go against the principles that we have all been arguing for, so I hope that the cabinet secretary will be able to clarify the processes and timescale with regard to that position. We need to think about how, collectively, we can put pressure on the EU.
As for trading quotas, which have been raised by members across the chamber, I must say that getting Alex Johnstone to sign up to something that the rest of us agree on is a major achievement. I do not want to stray any further into the Tory party’s discussions about where it wants to position itself, but if we can achieve that kind of political consensus on the view that the quotas will be a nightmare for our fishing communities, we need to use it properly. Such a move will lead to our companies being bought up and quotas being traded away. It will mean that the fish that are currently landed in Scotland will be landed somewhere else and it might result in the disappearance of our fish processing industry. The stakes are very high and we do not have much time before the rules come into force. As a result, we need the best possible representation. Indeed, our amendment is about ensuring that we all work together.
Of course, the challenge does not face the UK alone. I would be interested to hear about the cabinet secretary’s discussions with other European interests because it is crucial that we build common cause not just within the UK but across the EU. Different countries have different interests. If we can get the fishing communities in Cornwall and, indeed, in the rest of England on our side, I am sure that we can do the same thing in the rest of Europe. The challenge, though, is massive.
In his opening remarks, the cabinet secretary correctly analysed the CFP’s failings; however, the question is what the new CFP is going to look like, so I would like him, in his closing speech, to tell us more about what he is doing—and intends to do—to deliver on the proposals that we think are important. I suggest, for example, that he invite the European commissioner and the UK fisheries minister to come up and talk to us, the industry and the NGOs. Such an approach has been hugely influential with previous fishing ministers. When Jonathan Shaw and Huw Irranca-Davies came up, they totally understood the challenge that was facing them and the importance of the negotiations in which they were involved. We need to do the same again and get ministers up here to talk to us and the cabinet secretary in order to demonstrate that this is not a minority interest but something that interests the whole Scottish Parliament.
Furthermore, the cabinet secretary should consider how we can maximise influence and support, because this is all about translating our aspirations into the CFP’s new principles. In the past, the cabinet secretary has been quite coy about his strategy, but I do not think that such an approach is appropriate now. We have to go out and build support for certain principles. After all, we do not want to tweak one or two bits of the system; instead, our challenge—and our aspiration—must be to influence the whole policy. We want devolution of decision making, an end to tradeable quotas and a solution to discards that we can all live with.
Graeme Dey was right about the reduction in the Scottish fleet. We had decommissioning in the early years of this Parliament; our fishing communities have already made those sacrifices. What will be our bargaining chip when the next round of CFP is being developed?
We only have 18 months and there will be no independence referendum in that time. We all have to work together in our country’s interest and I hope that members will support our amendment, which is a collective call for common purpose not just within Scotland or the UK but across Europe.
- Richard Lochhead:
I will do my best to address some of the points that have been made very eloquently by many members of all parties in the chamber. I agree with Sarah Boyack and Alex Johnstone that we have had a very good debate with good speeches.
At the outset, I should say that as well as being Scottish Government minister for fisheries, I represent—as do many members in the chamber—a constituency in which many of the communities are defined by their fishing heritage. Today, the level of fishing activity is much less than it was in many previous decades, and fewer livelihoods are dependent on fisheries compared with past years. That is perhaps the real cost to us all of the common fisheries policy.
Many members spoke about the importance of our fishing industry to defining not just our communities but Scotland as a nation. Many also made the point that the future of our fishing communities is a national priority. It is not just an issue for members who represent fishing communities, which is why I was delighted that John Pentland, our representative from Motherwell and Wishaw, spoke in the debate and used the opportunity to remind us of that point.
We are also speaking about food. Dave Thompson raised the fact that we are talking about a top-quality food product, which, as Jean Urquhart said, is also a healthy product. We are therefore talking about a good healthy food, to which many communities add value to the benefit of both our coastal economies and Scotland as a nation.
I welcome the news, which Dave Thompson referred to, that the west coast of Scotland, which has not had its problems to seek in the fishing industry in recent years, has an added-value project that means that consumers the length and breadth of these islands will be able to buy top-quality langoustines from the pristine waters of the west coast. That is good news for the local industry.
Fishing has changed over the decades, and there are several factors behind that. First, the biological and ecological conditions in our seas have changed. That has had an influence on the size and location of our stocks, and we should not lose sight of that. We have also seen technological creep. Our vessels have become bigger and more efficient and can catch fish a lot more quickly and easily than in previous decades. That influences the number of vessels that we can have and the impact that they have on our fragile fish stocks.
Those are important factors, but I think that we can all agree today that the biggest factor that has influenced the fortunes of Scotland’s fishing communities down the years has been the disastrous European common fisheries policy, which is what today’s debate is really about.
I want to address a number of issues that were raised by members. I will start by ensuring that the arguments that we put forward for the future of our fishing communities and fish stocks are based on science. It is important that we present the evidence that makes Scotland’s case. Tavish Scott asked about the science budgets; I can assure him that as part of yesterday’s announcement we have protected the fish science budgets in my portfolio. We recognise the importance of the science in negotiations, not just this year but in subsequent years, including in relation to some of the stocks in Tavish Scott’s constituency. We need more science. We tend to be one of the few member states to have an interest in the stocks, so we have to ensure that we fund the science because no one else will do it. It has been challenging, but we have protected the budgets.
My officials have helpfully passed me a note to remind me that I am appearing before the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee to discuss our budget in a couple of weeks. I am looking forward to that.
Many members raised the issue of international tradeable quotas and the prospect that we could have a regime imposed on us that would mean that our current generation of fishing businesses could sell their quotas to foreign-based companies, thereby denying future generations of Scots in fishing communities their birthright and, as Sarah Boyack said, inflicting huge economic damage on our onshore sectors, as well the fleet. We all want to avoid that. We have asked for clarification from the Commission on the legalities of what it proposes and the safeguards it is offering. Clearly, we live in a single market, so if a Scots fisherman can sell to another Scots fishermen, how can he be prevented from selling to Dutch or Spanish fishermen? As I said in my opening remarks, unless we have absolute guarantees, the proposal will spell doom for many of Scotland’s fishing communities.
Discards are a huge public issue. I can exclusively reveal to the chamber that I have had two lengthy conversations with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in recent months. He did not give me any tips for the kitchen, but we did discuss the importance of discards and ensuring that we take the right approach. I used the opportunity to make it clear that we need not only a ban on discards at some point in the future but a plan to get there in the first place. The situation is not quite as simple as some people are making out, particularly in the case of Scotland’s mixed fishery, where the net goes over the side of the boat and various species are caught at the one time. It is not the same in the clean fisheries in the Mediterranean and elsewhere in European waters. We must be very careful, but we all agree that we have to make discards history as soon as possible.
Another proposal from the European Commission is that we ensure that our stocks achieve maximum sustainable yield by 2015. We can all agree with that principle, but we have concerns about how we will get there. As I said before, the biological and ecological conditions in our seas can influence the location and size of stocks; therefore, it is not the way forward to set a crude target for 2015 and, if we do not make progress quickly enough in the eyes of the European Commission, to be suddenly denied fishing opportunities for our fleet. We will keep a close watching brief on that.
Many members raised the issue of aquaculture and the need to ensure that the mistakes that we have made over sea fisheries are not made in relation to Scotland’s important aquaculture sector.
Some good things are being proposed by the Commission. For instance, the movement toward long-term multi-annual plans for our fish stocks is a good idea that we all support. We must move away from the constant crisis management that our fishing industry has had to put up with year in, year out. Those plans would be a way of doing that and would give the industry stability to plan its business into the future. The retention of relative stability is also welcomed by us all, because it protects Scotland’s historical fishing rights. The protection of the Hague preferences, which is a mechanism that ensures that fisheries-dependent communities get a minimum threshold of fish stocks and quotas, is also very important for Scotland and Ireland. In addition, the retention of the 6 and 12-mile limits has been confirmed, which we all welcome.
Tavish Scott raised the issue of the Shetland box. We have noticed that it is absent from the European Commission’s proposals and we are discussing with fishing representatives in Shetland and nationally how we can take the debate forward on the future of the Shetland box. I assure Tavish Scott that the matter is on our radar screen.
Sarah Boyack suggested that we must maximise our influence in the negotiations. I agree that we must make every effort to maximise our influence in determining the future of the common fisheries policy and the future of our fishing communities. That is why we are asking for a greater role for Scotland in those negotiations. Surely, we all agree that the current position is unsustainable. Last year, the Labour Government chose to send from the House of Lords a junior minister with responsibility for bee health to an important fisheries meeting, despite the Scottish Government’s request to attend; the UK Government turned down the Scottish Government’s request to have the Scottish fisheries minister present. Surely, any reasonable person recognises that that is wholly unacceptable.
The new Tory-Lib Dem Government in London says that it is relaxed about Scotland attending and speaking at meetings when a predominantly Scottish interest is being discussed or there is another good reason for us to do so. Yet, every time that we have asked to do that, it has said no. The UK Government cannot on the one hand be relaxed about the Scottish Government having the opportunity to put the case for Scotland’s fishing communities, but on the other, when a logical case is put as to why Scotland should take the lead or be able to speak at a meeting, say no every time. The only time that has been allowed to happen was when the First Minister intervened and persuaded the Prime Minister to overturn DEFRA’s decision. That situation must change if Scotland is to maximise its influence as we move forward.
The make-or-break issue in the CFP negotiations will be the extent to which decision making can be decentralised and returned to Scotland and the other member states, to work on a more local and regional level. I am pleased that the Parliament is united in recognising that that is the make-or-break issue and that we can send a clear, loud and united message from Scotland that it must be delivered. At the moment, we are awaiting further information from the Commission—which it has promised to publish soon—on how a regional model might work in a way that is acceptable in terms of the treaties and legal conditions. Our argument is that it is important to knock down the legal obstacles to ensure that such a model is delivered. If we agree that the CFP, under the current arrangements, has failed miserably, we cannot allow that to continue; so, let us knock down any of the obstacles that prevent decision making from being returned to member states and Scotland, in order to give our fish stocks and fishing communities a future.
Members have referred to the importance of our fishing industry in Shetland, Orkney, the west coast, Mallaig, north-east Fife, north-east Scotland, Eyemouth, the Western Isles, Scrabster, Lochinver, Pittenweem, Buckie and elsewhere. Our fishing industry remains crucial to the future of Scotland, which is why I am confident that we can take a team Scotland approach to the negotiations and speak with one voice as we work with our MEPs and other member states. I have had meetings with the Spanish and Irish ministers, and we will continue to do what Sarah Boyack asked for and put our case to other member states and capitals in Europe as well as working with the UK Government. The UK Government will have to work with Scotland and will, I hope, take into account our predominant interest in the UK’s case. Seventy per cent of the UK’s fishing industry is based in Scotland; therefore, it is vital that the UK Government listens to what Scotland has to say.
In closing, Rod Campbell said that he visited the Scottish fisheries museum in Anstruther. I have fond memories of my visit in the past year or so. I recommend making a visit to all members, who will see that the history of fishing is woven into Scotland’s story.
We must get the review of the common fisheries policy right so that we can write a new chapter for Scotland’s fishing communities and save Scotland’s fishing industry.