2 March 2017

(S5O-00725) Fishing Industry (Negotiations on Leaving the European Union)

6. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what the impact would be on the fishing industry of the United Kingdom Government considering it a medium priority in its negotiations on leaving the European Union, as suggested in a recently leaked memo. (S5O-00725)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I have asked UK ministers repeatedly for an assurance that Scotland’s fishing industry will not be expendable, as it was in the 1970s. UK ministers have failed to give such a guarantee. The memo, if it is genuine, serves only to increase my concern that, once again, the UK Government is not taking seriously the importance of the fishing industry to Scotland. It also indicates why it is vital that Scotland be fully involved in all negotiations relating to Scotland’s future in Europe. Scottish waters are among the most valuable in Europe and, with the right management and policy approach to support both offshore and onshore interests, they can help us to build growth in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities.

Stewart Stevenson: In the light of the silence from the UK secretary of state, I suspect that I know the answer to the question that I am about to ask, which is whether any guarantees have been given about the funding levels that support fishing communities and which are an important part of the support that flows from the current arrangements with the EU.

Fergus Ewing: Last week, I and my colleagues met Andrea Leadsom and her fellow UK ministers. I cannot say what she said at that meeting, because of the rules under which it was conducted, but I am able to state that I asked for an assurance that the pre-referendum pledges made by Andrea Leadsom and George Eustice that EU funding of £500 million a year to our rural economy would be matched. Those were the pre-referendum pledges.

Since the referendum, there has been radio silence. I specifically asked Andrea Leadsom to confirm that she would meet her unequivocal pledge that the UK Government would match the funding of the EU. We are still waiting for a reply, but we shall fight and fight again for a fair deal for Scotland’s fishermen. We will fight to prevent them from being sold out now as they were in the 1970s, when it emerged after the referendum that an internal Whitehall memo said that the Conservatives regarded the Scottish fishing interests as “expendable”.

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con): In light of the cabinet secretary’s previous answer, is the Scottish Government in favour of Scotland remaining a part of the common fisheries policy?

Fergus Ewing: In our alternative paper, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, we put forward how we would be able to come out of the common fisheries policy. It is in our paper. I suggest that Conservative members read it; they might educate themselves.

Sadly, despite Mr Russell’s frequent meetings with Mr Davis, the UK Government has said precisely nothing whatsoever in response to that very serious paper, which sets out proposals that would protect Scotland’s interests. The paper makes clear the importance of single-market membership to our economy as well as the point that we would not be happy to remain constrained by the CFP, or see it as an acceptable option, outside the EU.

Stewart Stevenson
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