No SNP sell-out (Jonathan Wills)
Your report on Alistair Carmichael’s visit to Whalsay quotes an un-named resident of Da Bonnie Isle as saying the SNP would “sell out” the fishing industry “if they got their independence and get back into Europe”.
In fact, the sell-out occurred 44 years ago when a Tory government took us into Europe without negotiating a proper agreement to safeguard the UK fishing fleet.
Forty-two years ago, a Labour government renegotiated the terms of British entry to the then European Common Market, but failed to get a better deal for the fishermen of Whalsay, or Fraserburgh or Brixham or anywhere else. The SNP pointed this out at the time. So much for the “SNP sell-out”.
In all the various treaty negotiations since then, the SNP delegation in the European Parliament has repeatedly criticised the defects of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and consistently argued the case for improvements, but now we’re told the party has “absolutely no consideration” for Whalsay.
The financially disastrous, draconian and ill-considered “discards ban”, which will bankrupt most Shetland whitefish trawlers if it is fully implemented in 2019, was agreed by the European Council of Ministers while Mr Carmichael was a cabinet minister in the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government.
I know Mr Carmichael is sincere in his opposition to the worst effects of the CFP. There are, however, two questions he needs to answer: What did he do about it when he was in government for five years? And what could he do about it next week, if he were returned as a member of the Liberal Democrat rump in Westminster, where his party would be without any influence – unless they joined another Tory junta?
It will not have escaped Whalsay’s notice that the terms of the CFP are approved at the European Council of Ministers, where Scotland does not have a seat but the UK does.
If Scotland were represented at the top table things would be rather different. As it is, the Scottish government’s influence over fisheries is limited to implementing decisions taken by UK governments (in which the fisheries minister is usually the lowest form of ministerial life).
But the “sell-out” story fits the “SNP-bad” message, which seems to be the last shot in Mr Carmichael’s panic-stricken locker.