SNP branch calls for devolution to protect Shetland fishing industry
Shetland SNP has called for responsibility for the fishing industry to be devolved to protect it from horse trading in Brexit negotiations.
The Shetland branch of the party discussed the implications for the fishing industry in Shetland at its annual meeting on Saturday. It unanimously passed a motion calling for responsibility for fishing to be passed to Holyrood.
The motion read: “Shetland SNP is totally committed to support the Shetland fishing industry and demand that the UK government devolve fishing matters to Holyrood. It is vital that the UK negotiators do not trade away the access rights of Scottish fishermen to Scottish waters.”
Shetland SNP convener Robbie McGregor expressed “great concern” that in exchange for Europe allowing UK access to the single market the UK will trade off Scottish fishing in exchange for deals on the likes of the special case status for the car industry or the future of the London international financial centre.
Shetland SNP deputy convener Iain Malcolmson, who was elected at the annual meeting, raised further concerns about a deal being struck to the detriment of Scottish fishermen when he learned that Downing Street had announced on Monday that “It is vital to protect the UK’s interests as a whole in single market negotiations”.
He added: “It is also vital that Shetland’s fishing access rights are not sold out to support other sector issues.”
Mr Malcolmson, who is also the group’s press officer, said later that negotiations involving fishing were very difficult at present as Westminster made policy but Holyrood had the responsibility of implementing it and thus was “tarred with the brush of policy”.
He added that the UK government had made it clear it was solely in charge of negotiations and this was bad because the bulk of the industry was in Scotland and “even worse” because so much of it is in Shetland.
Mr Malcolmson said that Shetland fishermen were perceiving Brexit as a great opportunity, but there was no guarantee the industry would not be sold out again in the tough negotiations ahead. Still, he thought it should be possible to build cross-party support for the principles of defending the fishing industry.
There was also the issue of another referendum to consider, but the outcome of that was “not a given”, so it was important to get discussions going about how best to protect the industry as soon as possible.