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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

Tories to Betray Scotland's Fishing Communities - Again!

Fishing has long been a traditional industry in Ayrshire, although it is of much greater scale in other parts of Scotland.

On 23 June 2016, Scotland voted overwhelming to stay in the European Union (EU). Ever since, an increasingly chaotic UK Tory Government has not only disregarded and disrespected Scotland’s interests, but is prepared to sell-out our vibrant fishing industry.

The backstop would place Scotland at a severe competitive disadvantage with Northern Ireland, whose fishing boats would continue fishing in our waters whilst remaining in both the Customs Union and Single Market, avoiding the barriers our sea and other products would face.

France’s President Macron has already said he will refuse to end the backstop unless the European Union retains control of 60% of UK fishing waters, as is already the case under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In that circumstance, we would be out of the CFP in name only and with no voice. In reality, our fishermen would be no better off than today, despite the promises made to them during the EU referendum.

A deal containing the backstop provision would be an economic disaster for our fishing communities. Further to this, 37.6% of people who process fish, crustaceans and molluscs in the UK are EU migrants. Brexit and Tory Government incompetence threatens the livelihoods of thousands.

The SNP has opposed the CFP from the very outset, always keeping Scotland’s interests to the forefront. The clarity of this position contrasts starkly to the utter disorder in the Tories, who have made it increasingly clear how little respect they have for Scotland and our fishing industry.

On 17 January 2017, Theresa May spoke about her plan for Britain, addressing what she thought should happen after the referendum. It had only a single mention of fishing – Spanish fishermen. There was no mention of Scottish fishermen, or indeed English, Irish, or Welsh. This is symptomatic of Tory sell-out of fishermen that has spanned decades.

Ted Heath’s Tory Government in the 1970s, said that “in light of Britain’s wider European interests they, the Scottish fishermen, are expendable.” Under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the UK Government signed us up to the original CFP - condemning our fishermen to decades of mismanagement. John Major’s Tories signed up to a revised CFP in the 1990s, which scrapped 578 Scottish fishing vessels and well into the 21st century, the Tories were arguing for preserving the CFP in European Treaties. Just as the Tories deemed Scottish fishing “expendable” in negotiations on the way in, they are now betraying the industry on the way out of the EU.

In the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK, paragraph 75 says:

"Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.”

This is not what the Tory Brexiteers told fishing communities. Only last month, all of Scotland’s 13 Tory MPs wrote to the Prime Minister demanding the UK leave the CFP by 2020. The letter states that anything short of full control over access and quotas would be a complete ‘betrayal’ of Scotland’s fishing communities. Yet increasingly it looks like a withdrawal deal will do exactly that. History is repeating itself and the industry could end up with precisely none of the promised gains from Brexit.

The SNP MPs will vote against and continue to oppose the Tories’ poor Brexit deal. The Brexiteers have consistently over-promised and under-delivered for Scotland’s fishermen, while the SNP continues to fight against this sellout to protect the interests of Scotland.


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