After over 40 years of EU rule the British people democratically voted for “British independence”.
So did we in Whalsay with evidence suggesting an 82 per cent majority in favour of leave.
Of many other benefits as a result of this hard-won battle Britain will be allowed to take back control of its territorial waters. Control of “British waters” alone offers huge potential and rewards for this country. In a world with ever increasing population and food shortages this is a huge asset for the UK.
Examples are many and an instance comes to mind, when as a fisherman (before I was purged from the job by the EU and a compliant Scottish government almost 13 years ago) I was working northwest of Flugga.
Whitefish and pelagic trawlers were working within a 10-mile radius. French, Norwegian, Scottish and Irish vessels were all there.
Knowing what our local boats were catching we figured that this fleet’s catch in that small area amounted to more than the Brent oilfield’s production in monetary terms (taking each over a 24-hour period) and this fish resource if properly managed is infinite.
Full control of UK waters is a huge asset to Shetland and the UK as a whole, yielding a high-quality food resource in an increasingly hungry world.
We have a second chance at this. We know from bitter experience that it has been easy to give away and mismanage this precious resource, then bow our heads and say: “It was the best possible deal under the circumstances.” And it usually was, as you were arguing against more than 20 opposing countries.
So it is of vital importance to get it right this time. I do not underestimate the challenge in convincing the UK government on this, but it has been done before, when the British government helped the British fishing industry to rebuild after the Second World War.
This was a complete success and took Shetland from a backward and impoverished place and made it prosperous. By the mid/late 1960s here in Whalsay fishing could support its entire community.
There are also plenty of examples on a national basis of how to better manage fisheries. In fact on every side of us, Norway, Faroe and Iceland all have better management regimes than we have had latterly.
That is because those neighbouring countries are all in charge of their own territorial waters and effectively manage them in a practical and sustainable manner, giving them maximum benefit from their marine resources, which those countries have not failed to realise the full potential of.
Good luck to those entrusted with representing the fishing industry and to those in fisheries management in the future UK fishing industry, which can now be on the ascendancy.