Letter from Edinburgh 09.10.09

I hear that North Sea mackerel have swum from Norwegian waters into ours. How inconsiderate of them.

The Norwegians are asking Brussels for some leeway to catch these fish and presumably to give them a good talking to about crossing international boundaries.

Yes okay, this is all somewhat flippant. But the serious observation is that, in other years, our pelagic boats have suffered from mackerel swimming up and down a line just to the east of our waters. I don’t recall Europe being sympathetic at that time so presumably they will take the same line now the boot is on the other foot.

All told, it’s another headache for the beleaguered fisheries minister, Richard Lochhead. I met him last week along with the other two isles MSPs. We raised the concerns of local boats about the December Fisheries Council negotiations, concerns which differ from those of the north-east.

But on some matters there is no difference. This week Peterhead fisher­men and the industry condemn­ed the government for giving up on them. The industry is saying that Mr Lochhead has already conceded the 10 per cent further cuts that Brussels wants.

I cannot understand this lack of fight from the SNP. Alex Salmond’s career was made on being elected by the fishermen of Peterhead. But with the impending crisis, with the industry being hit by government restrictions, red tape and cuts, Mr Salmond’s government, according to the fishermen, has given up.

Mr Lochhead said, after the Fisheries Council last December, that fishing families across Scotland would “sleep well this Christmas”. That sounded optimistic at the time and now looks downright silly.

If fishing is still important to the SNP, and this December turns out to be a disaster, Mr Lochhead’s coat is on the proverbial shoogly nail. Fishermen will demand someone better. Mr Salmond, faced with a revolt in his own political backyard, will have to act.

Aberdeen was the route to Parliament this week. I was to meet Aberdeen University students on Monday but the failure of Loganair’s de-icing kit at Sumburgh did for that.

But I was in time to see the enor-mous new shopping, hotel and cinema complex nearing completion between Aberdeen railway station and the boat. This will be very handy for Shetlanders, and visitors to the Northern Isles. There will be shops galore, food places and a picture house.

More practically, the centre will open at 7am so, as the boat arrives in Aberdeen, there will be shopping, food and other options available. And it’s all under cover.

What is needed is a covered walk-way from the NorthLink terminal to the station. With the difficulties booking taxis and the lack of a connecting bus service, a walkway would give the able-bodied a drier option on a day of Aberdonian rain.

Tavish Scott MSP


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