26th June 2017

Political row turns focus on ‘damaging’ fisheries policy

Clarity is needed from the SNP over its position on EU membership after nationalist MPs took opposing views on the Common Fisheries Policy.

That is the view of Tory candidate for the isles, Jamie Halcro Johnston, who has dismissed the pro-independence party as “muddled” or “desperate”.

He has taken his stance after two SNP MPs contradicted the party leadership and backed exiting the CFP.

Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford and Angus MP Mike Weir both signed a pledge by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) to commit to the UK coming out of the EU and breaking free from CFP.

However, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson MP, confirmed in a TV interview on Sunday that the party’s policy is for an independent Scotland to be a full member of the EU and signed up to CFP.

The CFP is a dirty word among many in the fishing sector. Chief executive of the Scottish Fishing Federation, Bertie Armstrong, has said that the whole of the Scottish fishing industry, from processors to hauliers, is “united” behind one aim – to come out of the EU and the CFP.

Calls have been made on the SNP to clarify its position, and the issue became the subject of fiery exchanges at First Minister’s Questions this week.

Mr Halcro Johnston said the row had put the SNP in a difficult position.

Jamie Halcro Johnston, General Election Tory candidate

“It’s either muddled or it’s just a desperate attempt to try to pretend that the SNP are for coming out of the CFP,” he said.

“We know that they’re very keen to take Scotland back into the EU.

“But we understand that, particular in their key seats, there’s this large fishing vote that doesn’t want to be part of the EU.

“This looks like a slightly desparate attempt to try to placate that by mixing messages.”
Mr Halcro Johnston said the “whole tone” of the debate from the SNP on EU membership had been “quite strange”.

“They’ve had to clarify their position a number of times.

“The way I see it, the SNP want to make Scotland independent, and they want to take us back into the EU. They’ll do that regardless of the cost of the deal which the EU makes us accept, and part of that will obviously be around fishing.”

However, the SNP’s list MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Maree Todd, said the SNP had been consistent in its opposition of the CFP, and continued to stand up for the fishing sector, which she said the Tories had declared “expendable”.

SNP MSP Maree Todd

“Our well known and long-standing view is that the Common Fisheries Policy has been damaging to the Scottish fishing industry. We’ve continually argued that it’s not fit for purpose and we’ve continually argued for a seat at the table to get something that is fit for purpose.”

She said the fishing industry as a whole was of “small relevance” to the UK government, but would be “massively important” to the Scottish government.

“If Scotland were an independent country negotiating for fishing rights, we would arguing very strongly for a very different package, not trading away fishing rights, as happened in the 1970s.”

But she admitted being a member of the EU meant “going along with the CFP”.

“But on that point I hope you’re looking into the signalling that has come from the Conservative party because so far, and I’ve said this very consistently, it looks very much like the Common Fisheries Policy might be the only European policy to survive Brexit.

“Theresa May, in her Lancaster House speech, talked about the EU not wanting to harm Spanish fishermens’ interests in the White Paper. They talked about the EU and the UK having mutual interest in fishing. It’s pretty clear that she is willing to trade on fishing rights again.

“Our firm belief is we would never have signed up to this in the 1970s. We want to be full members of the EU – there are some advantages to being in the market – but we would negotiate something different. We would negotiate something better because it’s so important for Scotland.”

In a statement, Mr Armstrong said: “The whole industry, from those who go to sea through the processors to the hauliers, is united behind one simple aim – our coming out of the EU and the CFP.

“Brexit offers us a huge opportunity to re-assert control of our waters and to establish once and for all a sensible, practicable new fisheries management regime.

“We as an industry have repeatedly stated that we will work with the UK and Scottish governments to achieve this, and we hope that candidates will support the prospect of jobs and security for our beleaguered coastal communities by signing this pledge.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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8 comments

  1. John Jamieson

    The SNP has expressed its opposition to the present CFP but has had little say in negotiations.
    The UK government wants an almost impossible Brexit deal, mutually beneficial to the UK and the EU’s fishing communities, therefor the possibility of control of Scottish waters being returned from the EU to Holyrood after Brexit is remote.
    We need to keep in mind that the Scottish fishing industry is a very low priority in UK Brexit negotiations.
    The CFP has evolved over several decades and that a majority of the EU countries agree that the CFP is working.
    Around 20 European countries have an interest in fishing of one kind or another.
    There is no hope of ending the CFP and reaching agreement on a new UK/EU Trade Agreement on fishing in the 18 months left for negotiation.
    There are no Tory seats in fishing communities and Scottish fishermen will blame the SNP no matter what happens after Brexit.
    The UK could save thousands of hours of preparation and negotiation by conceding the CFP as a Trade Agreement in exchange for a better deal on high priority ares, such as the City of London.

    Reply
    • Laurence Paton

      The government wont be undertaking thousands of hours of negotiations into the complex arrangements of the C.F.P.
      They have laid out plans to initiate ” The Great repeal bill” so that all matters presently under Brussel’s management would transfer as they are, initially a seamless transfer of management from Brussels to the UK.
      Then once the CFP is managed from within the UK , over time it can be re-written to put British fishing interests first and hopefully manage resources more efficiently.
      Accountable nation state governance rather than unaccountable & unelected commissioners from an overseas politburo.
      People in control whom we can directly vote out.

      Reply
      • Robin Stevenson

        What utter drivel you do talk Laurence. Although I have to say in your favour, you ARE consistent. 🙂

        When fishing is returned to the UK they will bargain it away as they always have done, your little ‘tale’ is just that, some imaginary story of giving control back to the people. Nothing but nothing will change, the fishing industry for the UK government is as ‘expandible’ today as it always has been.

        Don’t believe me?….Ask this guy:

        http://www.thehighlandtimes.com/news/2017/04/27/mundell-sinks-tories-on-fishing/

      • John Jamieson

        I would refer you to Theresa May’s statement when she said that given the heavy reliance on UK waters of the EU fishing industry and the importance of EU waters to the UK, it is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities.
        So far she has mentioned Spanish fisherman more often than she has mentioned Scottish fishermen.

      • Ali Inkster

        The snp will hand over the fishing industry without even bargaining so whatever the tories get will be better than the snp will give us. But maybe the Glaswegian hairdresser can answer this. The CFP means equal access to waters for all countries based on the size of the country not the amount of sea they bring to the table. The majority of the UK slice of this CFP pie was taken up by the scoti and Shetland fleets. (The English fishing effort took the brunt of the cuts when we joined the CFP, so much for the tories selling out the scottish fleet) On top of this we have the Hague agreement which gives the UK a far larger slice of the CFP pie than the rules would otherwise allow. So my question for the Robin and the rest of the snp is this. Which boats from the scoti and Shetland fleets should be scrapped so the snp can take us back into the eu and the CFP?

      • Laurence Paton

        You may have missed it Robin but I watched David Davis explain in the house of commons how the Great Repeal Bill is to be initiated, it makes sense.
        An initial transfer of management of all rules and regs as presently laid down.
        There is no way they can re-write every clause and sub paragraph that has spewed out of the E.U. in under two years, it will be the main structural elements of monies needed to cover MEP’s pensions etc.
        The E.U. technocrats produce a 32 page document on “The definition of a walnut”, apparently there is similar legislation for most nuts, … you should check it out…
        I look forward in the hope the UK’s tax buck will no longer be going into the pockets of vastly wealthy German and French land owners.

      • Laurence Paton

        John Jamieson,
        Nobody is suggesting banning all foreign fishing within UK waters.
        For the good of the Scottish industry should Sturgeon and co not be working positively with the UK government instead of negative actions ?

    • Ali Inkster

      Of course a “majority of EU countries think the CFP is working” because they get to plunder wir waters with very little if any scrutiny from marine scotland.

      Reply

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