27 June 2002

(S1O-5411) Fishing Rights

9. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to protect Scotland's historic fishing rights. (S1O-5411)

The Minister for Environment and Rural Development (Ross Finnie): The Scottish Executive engages with the Commission at ministerial and official level and is an integral part of the United Kingdom negotiating team on fisheries. In those respective capacities, we are working to ensure that Scotland's interests are fully represented during the current review of the common fisheries policy.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister recall saying in the plenary debate on the CFP on 13 June:

"The Commission is not proposing to disrupt existing relative stability shares." —[Official Report, 13 June 2002; c 12718.]

Is the minister aware that on 19 June, John Farnell, speaking on behalf of the Commission, said at the European Parliament Fisheries Committee that although we have relative stability today, the Commission believes that one day we should not, and that the question was how and how quickly we got there? Is the minister not guilty of breathtaking complacency in not demanding the lead role in Europe on the UK's negotiations on the CFP in order to defend Scottish fishermen?

Ross Finnie: There was a lot of sound and fury there, but I do not know whether it added up to much. Mr Stevenson will recall that in that plenary fisheries debate I made clear the Executive's position, which I will repeat. We will defend relative stability, just as we will defend the interests of the Shetland box and the Hague preference. Those matters are all fundamental to Scotland's historical fishing rights. I made that clear during the debate and I repeat it. What John Farnell, the commissioner and others say is important. I do not dismiss it. However, the crucial issue is what the Commission finally decides on the document that will revise the CFP.

I cannot be clearer about where I and the Scottish Executive stand on those matters. We are absolutely committed to protecting Scotland's fishing interests.

Tavish Scott (Shetland) (LD): I agree with the minister's comments. However, will the minister reflect further on the deep frustration that local fishermen feel at the Commission's handling of deepwater species—particularly at the lack of science to back up the deal that the Commission negotiated with the Spanish presidency? Will he undertake to ensure that, in future negotiations on CFP reform, it will be at the heart of his agenda that science will underpin stock assessment details?

Ross Finnie: I could not agree more with what Tavish Scott said. One of the fundamental reasons why we voted against the compromise that the presidency suggested and that the Commission—regrettably—supported was that it was wholly unsupported by science. I say to Tavish Scott that I made that position very clear to the commissioner and his cabinet. I find it unacceptable that, when we are trying to have a rational debate on proceeding with CFP reform and on how we deal with the conservation of stocks, we do so other than on the basis of good scientific advice. Such advice must be at the heart of any CFP review proposals on how to deal with conservation.

Mr Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con): Does the minister agree that total allowable catches and quotas are not the right tools with which to manage deepwater species? What is his comment on the fact that Scottish fishermen are left with 2 per cent of the quotas, whereas French fishermen apparently have 80 per cent of the quotas for those species?

Ross Finnie: As Jamie McGrigor ought to know, the Scottish Executive's position, which was endorsed by the UK, was that we were opposed to using TACs in deepwater fisheries. We made that position very clear to the Commission when the proposal was first debated. I can only repeat that I find the final settlement highly unacceptable and that that is why we voted against it.

Dennis Canavan (Falkirk West): Will the Executive protect Scotland's historical freshwater fishing rights by setting up a democratically constituted Scottish anglers trust to administer all freshwater fishing rights in Scotland and to ensure more opportunities for ordinary anglers instead of protecting the privileges of the big landowners?

Ross Finnie: I am not entirely sure that that forms part of the common fisheries policy review, Presiding Officer, and I am not entirely sure that Mr Canavan would wish the European Union's common fisheries policy review to extend that far.

Dennis Canavan: No.

Ross Finnie: I thought that we might be agreed on that at least.

I take Mr Canavan's point on the need to protect the freshwater fisheries. That is what the strategies that we are implementing seek to do and also what the legislation that we are promoting seeks to do. I assure Mr Canavan that the Executive is as concerned to protect our rights in freshwater fishing as it is concerned about sea fisheries.

The Presiding Officer: The question was about historical fishing rights. It was not confined to Europe. [Applause.] Order.

Maureen Macmillan (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): I believe that, for the first time, aquaculture will be included in the revised CFP. There is some anxiety among fish farmers about the amount of support that they can expect and the amount of protection from non-European Union producers that they will have. Will the minister make a commitment that all the stakeholders in the industry will be consulted on the aquaculture section of the revised CFP so that we can achieve an outcome that allows us to continue to develop that high quality industry of ours, but do so in an environmentally responsible manner?

Ross Finnie: While the Presiding Officer is contemplating whether aquaculture is a historical fishing right, I will leap in to answer the question. I assure Maureen Macmillan that the Commission's draft proposals contain an important section that highlights the significant and integrated role that aquaculture will play in the future of our fisheries policy. I assure her that, as the Scottish Executive will consult all fishing sectors before we come to a view on how to respond to the definite proposals on CFP reform, the aquaculture sector will be included in that wide consultation.

The Presiding Officer: The minister got his own back—aquaculture cannot be a historic fishing right.

13 June 2002

(S1O-5341) Anti-social Behaviour

7. Karen Whitefield (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to address the issue of anti-social behaviour. (S1O-5341)

The Minister for Social Justice (Ms Margaret Curran): The Executive is taking a range of steps to address anti-social behaviour at the local level. We have introduced new legislative measures such as probationary tenancies and interim anti-social behaviour orders. We have also acted to identify and disseminate good practice and new approaches.

Karen Whitefield: Is the minister aware that North Lanarkshire Council has established a task force to tackle anti-social behaviour? How does the minister intend to promote good practice such as that at a local level? Does she agree that there is a need for interim anti-social behaviour orders, as was suggested during the progress of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, to allow councils to deal urgently with the problem?

Ms Curran: Those questions raise a number of issues. We are taking action across several fronts. We have made some £250,000 available for three years to promote good practice, which includes the work going on in North Lanarkshire. I intend to visit there in the near future to discuss housing issues and I will examine the issue of anti-social behaviour while I am there. We have funded the post of a social neighbourhoods co-ordinator, who is based in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. We have also funded Safeguarding Communities and Reducing Offending in Scotland, to promote and develop mediation services throughout Scotland. Interim anti-social behaviour orders will be addressed in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill. That has happened because of what occurred during the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): In the light of what I believe is widespread ignorance among police, councils and communities about the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Act 2001, which helps individuals and communities to take action against certain types of anti-social behaviour, will the minister indicate whether she is willing to take steps to ensure greater knowledge of the act's potential?

Ms Curran: Yes, I am happy to give the assurance that we will take action and work with colleagues to ensure that knowledge of the 2001 act is disseminated. Mr Stevenson will know that the act began as a committee bill, but the Executive took responsibility for ensuring that the act was properly implemented.

Work is being undertaken on the sheriff court rules and Citizens Advice Scotland and Scottish Women's Aid are working to promote the act. I will happily promote the act as much as possible.

Phil Gallie (South of Scotland) (Con): Is the minister aware that, a few years ago, Dundee City Council had a policy of locating anti-social tenants in specific areas? Some might call that ghettoising. Does the minister approve of that move and, if so, will she encourage other authorities to do the same, to bring peace to the many responsible tenants who find anti-social tenants impossible to deal with?

Ms Curran: Mr Gallie must be referring to the Conservatives' policy of sin bins—

Phil Gallie: It was a Labour council.

Ms Curran: Bear with me; I will try to address the point. Phil Gallie's comments bear a striking similarity to Bill Aitken's proposal for sin bins, which he made during the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. I accept Phil Gallie's point about Dundee City Council. The Executive is clear about the unacceptability of anti-social behaviour. We want to take decisive action to eradicate that behaviour and to ensure that there are proper penalties for those who engage in it. During the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill, we were not persuaded that sin bins are appropriate. I do not know the details of the scheme in Dundee, but I have been particularly impressed with the Dundee mediation project, which is making significant strides in tackling anti-social behaviour.

I guarantee members that we will take effective and decisive action to tackle anti-social behaviour, but it is not easy to do that—we cannot wave a magic wand and solve everything. The issue requires action on a number of fronts, which is what we are taking.

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