SNP not for fishermen (Gary Smith)

As a fisherman and Shetlander the EU in/out referendum is a pretty major event for me and my business.

Without looking too deeply into the pros and cons most fishermen would say that surely leaving the EU would be our best option, but would it?

In recent years the SNP government have shown the fishermen of Scotland that they are most definitely not a pro-fishing party. They are one of the few governments who voted in Europe for monitoring cameras on all fishing vessels. These cameras record all fish caught and those discarded due to lack of quota, not being marketable, or undersized, that would cost millions to set up and monitor.

The SNP have introduced Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where all bottom trawling or dredging is banned, a pretty devastating thing to do to inshore fishermen and akin to taking the farmers’ land away!

In 2005 the SNP said they wanted out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), actually petitioning the House of Commons for withdrawal. This gained them many votes from the fishing communities of Scotland.

Then they turned on their heels and now want to stay within the EU and work with the CFP. They used our votes to gain power then stab us in the back.

They also introduced closed areas – huge areas of seabed closed off to bottom fishing because of supposed cod abundance in that area. So if other species were present in that area Scottish vessels had to move on while foreign and English vessels fished away, all this happening close to our shores.

I don’t believe any party is pro-fishing but I know the SNP are against us and that is what bothers me about leaving the EU.

With the SNP hell bent on independence and not caring for their fishermen they may well, in the event of them achieving their goal, trade the fishing industry off for re-entry into Europe.

In short, with the events of recent years I would be very worried with the SNP at the helm and in full control of our industry.

After a lot of thought I have decided that I will be voting to leave the EU because I believe we cannot fix the CFP and whoever is in power in Holyrood would be easier to negotiate with than the European Commission.

I will also be voting for Tavish Scott in the Scottish election because he has shown by going to sea on a local fishing vessel a few years ago, that he wants to understand the difficulties of the job and is prepared to go to length to find out what’s going on,

I don’t believe any other candidate has done anything like that before. Tavish also has a real understanding of crofting matters and has got his teeth into the transport costs and reliability issue. For me he is the only one really listening.

Gary Smith
Burra Isle.


Add Your Comment
  • Ivan Coghill

    • May 2nd, 2016 19:20

    What is Tavish doing to help young Shetland fishermen get into the industry? What is Gary Smith doing? Where does the crew come from on Mr Smith’s boat?

  • Gary smith

    • May 6th, 2016 4:55

    Ivan coghill, I have over the years hired many young Shetland fishermen, there were some who left to work in the oil industry others who gained jobs on other vessels and one or two who decided the job was not for them.
    In 2009 with soaring fuel costs and high leasing costs the fishermen’s wage was severely cut and many men left the industry, this is when I found myself without crew and unable to fish, like many others I turned to other countries where crew were available, had I not have done this I would have undoubtedly gone bankrupt. That is what I have done for young Shetland fishermen, I have kept going in the face of adversity, keeping an industry alive in Shetland so that when things are brighter for our young men there is an industry remaining in the isles for them to join. I do not expect you to understand this, for a better insight please accept my offer to come to sea on a fishing trip, I have a feeling you will learn very much, particularly from my Filipino crew!

  • Robert Duncan

    • May 6th, 2016 12:03

    “[The Scottish Government is] one of the few governments who voted in Europe for monitoring cameras on all fishing vessels.”

    Could you explain what you mean by that Gary?

  • Gary smith

    • May 6th, 2016 20:21

    Robert Duncan
    I am at sea with limited time and Internet coverage but from memory, in 2014/15 an idea was formed to install cameras on all EU fishing vessels to monitor and record catches 24/7, almost all governments rejected the idea as unworkable but not the SNP, they supported the idea which after plenty of consultation was squashed.
    This is not to be confused with the British scheme where vessels wishing to have cameras onboard to monitor catch are rewarded with 25% extra cod quota.

  • Gary smith

    • May 7th, 2016 5:54

    Robert Duncan
    In 2015 a proposal was forwarded from the European Commission to all the member states, the proposal was to fit monitoring cameras on every fishing vessel to record catches and discards etc, almost all of the member states rejected this proposal mainly due to cost and practicality, the SNP however supported the proposal, probably due to lack of understanding and proper consultation with the fishermen.
    This should not be confused with the scheme where vessels take monitoring cameras onboard their vessels in return for additional quota but all fish must be landed.

    • Robert Duncan

      • May 10th, 2016 10:29

      Sorry, I don’t follow how that could be the case. The implementation of CCTV on fishing vessels was agreed by the EU Parliament in 2013. The Scottish Government has no direct representative to the EU Parliament, or indeed the EU more generally. It is also impossible for the scheme to have been implemented without majority support, so even if you are referring to SNP MEPs, they couldn’t have been acting as the minority you suggest.

      • Ali Inkster

        • May 10th, 2016 12:41

        You seem to be easily confused, that may explain your voting habits.

      • Robert Duncan

        • May 10th, 2016 14:15

        Voting habits you know nothing of.

        Rather than yet another needless personal attack, why not enlighten me in the issue? Where is my understanding mistaken?

      • John Tulloch

        • May 11th, 2016 6:57

        Indeed, Robert. We know neither about your voting habits nor anything else about you. Not even whether Robert Duncan is your real name.

        Yet you were quite prepared to carry out a “needless personal attack” on me, someone who is completely open about who they are and where they live and who has no financial incentive nor personal ambition axe to grind.

        As they say down here, “G’ away an bile yer heid!”

      • Robert Duncan

        • May 11th, 2016 12:07

        I’m not sure what you’re referring to there John but don’t recall any “personal attack” directed at you. Please bear inind not only is Robert Duncan a common name, it is one I share with at least one other contributor here.

      • Ali Inkster

        • May 15th, 2016 13:06

        Then it may be a good idea to differentiate which Robert Duncan you are if you are aware of another contributing in the same name.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • May 11th, 2016 11:06

    Robert Duncan, a word of advice. As long as you use columns to endlessly nit-pick the views of others, frequently on matters you are extraordinarily ignorant about, expect to be criticized. Just out of interest what qualifications have you to regale us with your views on the fishing industry. Have you ever been on a fishing boat? Have you any genuine knowledge of EU law regarding fishing or are you just trawling the internet? Perhaps if you feel you are being personally attacked you should ask yourself why. Also just occasionally an original opinion, one of your own, would not go amiss.

  • Robert Duncan

    • May 12th, 2016 20:01

    I note that despite now dismissing me as “easily confused” and “extraordinarily ignorant”, neither of my detractors has even attempted to address the points I put forward.

    I suspect the increasingly aggressive and unpleasant tone they take up as an attempt to subvert actual discussion to protect the comfortable echo chamber they wish these pages to provide. I struggle to think of another reason for grown men to behave in such a petulant manner. I hope Mr Smith, when next ashore, will find the time to reply politely, but I hold no hopes that Messrs Inkster or Tinkler might afford such courtesy.

  • Gary Smith

    • May 13th, 2016 18:22

    Robert Duncan, you are correct that the use of cctv cameras to monitor catches and discards was introduced in 2013, that is a totally voluntary scheme where the participating vessels got 30% more cod quota for carrying these cameras, this year it has been reduced to 25%. What I was referring to is totally different, in 2014/15 the European Commission put forward a proposal to member states where cctv be fitted to every vessel of 12m>. Most governments rejected this idea after consultation with their fisheries departments as unworkable but not so with marine Scotland they supported the idea which in Scotland alone would cost millions to set up and more millions to monitor the hours and hours of footage. Thankfully the scheme did not go ahead mainly due to French, German, Dutch and Belgian government fishing departments rejecting the proposal as unworkable and far too expensive.

    • iantinkler

      • May 15th, 2016 9:55

      Robert Duncan, a word of advice. As long as you use columns to endlessly nit-pick the views of others, frequently on matters you are extraordinarily ignorant about, expect to be criticized. In view of the above from Gary Smith, are you a little less ignorant now Robert/ I am sorry you feel I lack courtesy. I just do not suffer fools well. Quod erat demonstrandum.

  • David Spence

    • May 18th, 2016 2:54

    If the UK decides to leave the EU, no doubt this will bring pleasure to many fishermen? I have ask though ‘ Why did the EU introduce quota’s ? I don’t suppose it was anything to do with over fishing certain area’s of the North Sea/Atlantic Ocean?????

    I suspect, as history have proven in the past, it is the quick buck mentality, as long as I can get rich quickly, I do not give a damn about the long term consequences of my short term actions to other fishermen, fish stocks and the destruction to the eco-systems dependent (more so than humans) on the sea as a means of survival.

    Have you ever questioned why fish farming has replaced much of the fishing of the sea’s???? Could it be due to the fishing industry having the mentality as the ‘ quick buck mentality fishermen ‘ ????

    It is very obvious the fishing industry could not and will not regulate itself, since their attitude is the same as the people they are protecting. Which means having careless attitude about the industry, the protection of fish species/stocks, complete ban on fishing at certain parts of the year etc etc

    • Duncan Simpson

      • May 18th, 2016 12:33

      David I have to strongly disagree. I am not a fisherman but being from Whalsay I know plenty. Do you really believe that the fishermen of Shetland would happily empty the seas of fish, leaving nothing for their children?

      Fishing has always been the lifeblood of Shetland and no-one understands this better than the men who risk their lives to put food on their own, and many others, tables.

      The days of rampant overfishing in the North Sea/North Atlantic seem to be over, North Sea Cod is on its way to receiving certified sustainable status I believe. This despite sensationalist headlines a few years ago of only a handful left in the sea.

      What part the EU has played in the recovery of stocks is debatable. What is not debatable is the destruction the CFP has caused to the fishing industry of this country and the injustice that 67% (I believe?) of fish caught in UK waters are caught by foreign boats.

      Saying that Shetland fishermen don’t care about protecting fish stocks is ridiculous, I am sure they care much more than most as it is their livelihood and communities which depend on said stocks.

      • David Spence

        • May 18th, 2016 19:04

        Hello Duncan, I agree with much of what you have said in regards to small communities being very much dependent on fishing as a means of income. I was not, as such, criticizing Shetland, but moreover the industry itself and its lack, albeit difficult, of being able to regulate itself in a manner which will not put the industry into a situation where its future is very much in question.

        I also think there is What Constitutes ‘ British Waters ‘ to this of ‘ EU Waters ‘ and ‘ International Waters ‘?????? Does Britain have the right to say ‘ This is British Water’s, clear-off ‘ even although it is outwith the 3 mile limit or even the 12 mile limit??????

        History has proven in many area’s of the world which was once rich in fish stocks is now empty or the seabed has been destroyed so much it will take years for fish to replenish such area’s again.

        You are right about certain species building up their numbers again, but how long would it take to bring this to the verge of zero if monitoring and controlling fish stocks was not in place???

    • Gordon Harmer

      • May 18th, 2016 14:15

      David you should stick to slagging of the Tories, your knowledge of Shetland Fishermen is about the same level as Brian Smith’s or an EU/SNP minister for that matter.

    • John Tulloch

      • May 18th, 2016 14:49


      As Duncan says, fishermen recognise the need to conserve stocks.

      Shetland (and UK) waters were hi-jacked when the EU (then EEC) passed their Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) into law, SIX HOURS before official acceptance of the UK’s joining application. This entitled all EU countries to equal access to all fishing grounds when the UK joined in 1973.

      Quota isn’t the only way to manage fish stocks and isn’t, in itself, wrong. It is the implementation and resulting unfair pillaging of stocks by other EU countries and – notoriously – by non-EU countries like Faroe, with EU approval, that is the problem.

      Another issue is commoditisation, the buying and selling of quota which led to the corrupt, self-perpetuating regime of ever bigger fishing ships e.g. a quarter of all English quota is owned by a single Dutch super trawler!

      Shetland suffers from both:

      1. Faroese vessels now take more mackerel from Shetland than the local fleet.

      2. The quota system incentivises big players to support continued EU membership to protect their investment which they use or rent to other fishermen at rates unaffordable for potential young new entrants, making it a closed shop.

      Shetlanders must vote “LEAVE”.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • May 18th, 2016 20:06

        And to think John, you have a cheek coming on here, telling us that it’s all the fault of the SNP? this is what you voted for; ‘Better together’. And NOW it’s ‘LEAVE’ I do wish you’d make up your mind? So it’s ‘leave’ the EU but stay with the people that sold you out in the first place?…Truly bizarre.

        ‘Secret papers revealed that Margaret Thatcher’s government considered Scottish fishing as “expendable” in EU negotiations. The Thatcher government signed up to the original CFP. Her predecessor John Major caused further damage to the Scottish fishing industry when sold out on Spanish access to Scottish fishing waters’.

        “Our fishermen need a voice at the top table in Europe. Despite two thirds of the UK industry being based in Scotland, Scottish Ministers have not been allowed to speak on behalf of the UK in Europe, even on occasions where the interest is almost exclusively Scottish. This means that Scotland’s representatives – who are closest to the needs of the Scottish fishing sector – are not able to ensure that their voice is properly heard.

      • John Tulloch

        • May 19th, 2016 12:08

        No Mr Stevenson, it isn’t a “cheek” at all. My arguments have been consistent throughout.

        1. The EU is bad for Shetland, especially, in fisheries..
        2. The UK government sold out Shetland when it accepted the CFP hi-jack on joining the EU in 1973.
        3. The SNP is determined to remain in or rejoin the EU if Scotland achieves independence, on terms which will most likely be even worse for Shetland than they are currently.

        The antidote to this is for Shetland to achieve self-governing autonomy and leave the EU, as Greenland did in 1979 and 1985, respectively.

      • Robert Sim

        • May 19th, 2016 14:10

        “The antidote to this is for Shetland to achieve self-governing autonomy…” John, I ask, as others have, without any hope of a reply: how on earth is that going to happen? Is one of the governments just going to decide to award Shetland that status, with no effort on anyone’s behalf? The new MSP didn’t mention it (or indeed Wis Shetland) at all in his final pre-election statement in the Shetland Times just before the election, whereas the SNP candidate did specifically mention increased powers for Shetland. Ironic.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • May 19th, 2016 16:31

        Just to clarify a couple of points John:

        1. Now you’re saying that Scottish fishing quotas since 1973 [when we joined the EEC] were absolutely nothing to do with the SNP or Scottish government, as the deal was struck by the UK government, much to the determent of Scottish fishing?

        2. Despite Scottish fishing being ‘Sold out’ by Thatcher, Labour and Lib/Dem UK government’s – right up to present day – this is STILL a better option for Shetland to remain with a UK government, and NOT a Scottish government?

        3. You’re under the strange delusion that IF the UK leaves the EU and Shetland happens to become an autonomous region of the UK, that this will somehow be to the benefit of Shetland, because the UK will all of a sudden stop using Shetland fishing as a bargaining chip to benefit London and the South East?

        4. You seriously imagine that a UK government will be as fair and reasonable as the Danish government, where there’s money to be made?

        I’m afraid that I’ll have to add to the word ‘bizarre’ with the word ‘naive’.

      • John Tulloch

        • May 19th, 2016 18:30

        Messrs Sim and Stevenson,


        Your points:

        POINT 1: I agree, I have never said anything else. The position will change with independence, probably, to something worse.
        POINT 2: Heath sold out the fishing in 1973. Without independence the SG hasn’t the power to deliver autonomy so we have no alternative to Westminster.
        POINT 3: I have called for Shetland fishing to remain under the UK. Shetland should control its own fishing grounds, as does Faroe. Unless the CFP is abolished, that means we must “LEAVE” the EU.
        POINT 4: I advocate Faroese-style autonomy, with a greater power. If an independent Scotland offers Shetland that and the people accept it by referendum, that’s fine by me. I have never said anything else. However, given the outright hostility and vitriol which pour from SNP activists at any mention of greater local powers, I think it’s unlikely to be forthcoming.

        Robert S.,

        Winning autonomy might be a long game and Wir Shetland’s strategy and tactics may have changed since I stepped down so I can’t comment. I speak here for myself.

        I don’t expect WS to tell you their plans on here.

      • iantinkler

        • May 19th, 2016 18:31

        Firstly a clear democratic mandate, from Shetland folk. Then look to the history books, a clue Manx, Alderney, Faroe, Guernsey, Norway et al for just a few examples. Ignore Nationalist Scotland, they blew it for a generation or so.. Simples Robert Sim, I do hope that is not too hard to follow..

      • Robin Stevenson

        • May 19th, 2016 19:49

        1. And there we have it in a nutshell John, the word ‘Probably’, never tried, never tested, but Shetland fishing would ‘Probably’ become something worse, under an independent Scotland?

        2. ” Without independence the SG hasn’t the power to deliver autonomy”, The 73% of Shetland ‘No’ voters certainly didn’t help a great deal in that department in fairness?

        3. At the very heart of the EU debate, Scotland is very much in favour of remaining, for the simple reason that it restricts our Westminster government, giving it ‘LESS’ control over Scottish affairs, while keeping in check what a Tory government would be free to impose on Scottish interests. Hmm I wonder why? When we have all that trust?

        4. “Given the outright hostility and vitriol which pour from SNP activists at any mention of greater local powers”….. Was OIOF introduced by an outright, hostile Scottish government, which hated the idea of more autonomy for Shetland then?

        I think both you and I know exactly where the ‘outright hostility and vitriol’, is coming from John?… And it ain’t the SNP supporters.

      • Robert Sim

        • May 19th, 2016 20:09

        Not too hard to follow, Ian – impossible. Listing the names of places tells me nothing. You will have to come down to boring old detail. About Shetland.

      • John Tulloch

        • May 19th, 2016 21:36

        Correction: My response to Robin Stevenson, above, “POINT 3: I have called for Shetland fishing to remain under the UK.” should have read “I have NEVER called for…etc.”

  • Jimmy Sandison

    • May 18th, 2016 17:06

    As a recently retired fisherman after 53 years . I would remind mr spence and other critics that Shetland fishermen both pelagic and white fish , operated a quota system of their own before the eu got their grubby hands on it

  • David Spence

    • May 18th, 2016 20:22

    lol You are probably right, Gordon.

    However, I do agree with what other people have said, and I apologize if I have offended due to my obvious lack of knowledge on the said subject.

    I am not so sure about other area’s of the world in regards to, if any, a common fisheries policy and whether or not such a policy is enforceable? I do realize there are great differences within the EU itself, and how other countries are flouting such laws and, in many cases, fishing vessels and owners not being prosecuted……………as John T. has mentioned about the selling of licenses to other boat owners from other countries within the EU.

    I also realize trying to monitor and keep records of fish stocks may also be difficult in light of, possibly, illegal fishing or fishing under a different license or landing fish in different parts of the EU or even outwith the EU.

    Overall, I guess, it is difficult to keep a 100% track of what is caught and what is still in stock.

    I do think the EU, could take a leaf out of how Norway does it’s fishing, and the laws they have introduced?

  • Haydn Gear

    • May 18th, 2016 23:29

    I was under the impression and belief that snappers are a breed of fish. It has now become apparent from reading these columns that they not only live in water but also live on Shetland. The language and modes of expressing thoughts and opinions leave much to be desired. What an improvement it would be if the barbed and intolerant views and comments could be laced with intelligent respectful exchanges. I do so wish that DS and IT in particular would modify their aggressive approaches. They seem to believe that unreasonable language strengthens their arguments. In fact, it has the opposite effect.

    • Duncan Simpson

      • May 19th, 2016 11:31

      Is “DS” referring to my comment? If so I do not believe I said anything unreasonable or barbed? If it came off as defensive it is only because to me the comment read as an attack on all fishermen, of which many are family and friends of mine.

      David has clarified that he was not criticising the fishermen of Shetland which is fair enough, he has also admitted to a lack of knowledge of the industry which is also fair enough.

      I will never accept that the EU is fair on the fishing industry of this country or that the UK, Scotland or Shetland would not be capable of managing their own waters in the right circumstances.

    • Robert Sim

      • May 19th, 2016 11:58

      What arguments?

  • Rob Windsor

    • May 19th, 2016 18:03

    I love reading all your comments. How easy would it be for me to leave Cornwall and get a job as a crew member on Shetland ?.

  • Rob Windsor

    • May 19th, 2016 18:44

    I really enjoy reading all of your comments, such interesting views
    How easy would it be for me to leave Cornwall and move to Shetland and get a job as a crew member on a fishing boat ?

  • David Spence

    • May 19th, 2016 19:56

    If the UK decides to leave the EU, what impact would this have on Shetland Fishing and the associated businesses dependent on this?

    It also brings to the fore, who has legal rights to certain area’s of the North Sea/North/East part of the Atlantic Ocean and waters off the Faroe’s, Iceland and Norway??? Where is the line between national and international boundaries when it comes to who has a greater right?

    I presume Britain will still have the right to fish upto 3 miles off the coast………What about the 12 mile limit assigned, I believe, to the EU fishing fleets? I presume the 12 mile limit starts after a countries 3 mile limit???

    I am unsure as to the legal precedence of waters over the 12 mile limit, and what countries are allowed to fish within these waters??? Is their an agreement or is it a ‘ free for all policy ‘?????

    I would very much appreciate any further information on this please.

  • Haydn Gear

    • May 19th, 2016 22:36

    Duncan. No, the DS referred to in my letter regarding modes of expression and choice of language most certainly did NOT refer to you. I feel fine about your reasonable approach, rest assured.

    • David Spence

      • May 20th, 2016 14:11

      I know my views and opinions, for what they are worth, can be like a bull in a china shop, which I do regret.

      What would be the impact if the UK were to exit the EU? How would the UK/Scotland influence the lives of Shetlanders’ and this of the Shetland Fishing Fleet?

      As far as I can see, nobody has expressed the potential impact leaving the EU could have on the Shetland Fishing Fleet. Who would assess, in terms of fishing limits, the area’s deemed to be British/Scottish, and how would, despite leaving the EU, this could be interpreted in regards to negotiations???

      Would the fate of the Shetland Fishing Fleet be at the hands of Westminster or Scotland?

      The Brexit lot going on and on how we would be better off out of the EU, but they lack any substance when it comes to what the benefits would be, and what would be the impact on the Shetland Fishing Fleet, and many other smaller communities within Scotland???

      I know Haydn, I should have put this text on the main line, so to speak, rather than a direct answer to your thread………want for better words. lol

      • John Tulloch

        • May 21st, 2016 14:17


        The detailed answer to your question about effects on our fishing fleet would emerge from autonomy negotiations. However, if there is no benefit, there would be no point in proceeding.

        We must look to places which already have autonomy and draw attention to what is on the other side of the glass door. It isn’t locked.

        However, Shetlanders must turn the handle, pull open the door and walk through.

        A useful example is that of Faroe with Denmark. Denmark remains the protecting power but the Faroese make their own laws and have control of their own finances, fishing grounds and sea bed.

        By law, FISH ARE THE PROPERTY OF THE FAROESE PEOPLE, not EU mandarins.

        Faroe, The Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Gibraltar, all have very satisfactory arrangements with their protecting power which, in return, retains the strategic and economic advantages associated with those locations e.g. Gibraltar commanding the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

        Should these places become fully independent the advantages to the larger power of retaining such a foothold would be lost.

  • Haydn Gear

    • May 21st, 2016 21:26

    No worries David (Spence) . In fact, I think you talk a lot of good sense and I almost always agree with you. I expect you’ve noticed that there are some who NEVER give credit where it is due . Always on the attack seems to be their preference


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.