The SNP has called on the Scottish Government to use part of the £11m underspend in last year’s fisheries aid package to fund an action plan for Scotland’s harbour businesses that have been hit by the two vessel decommissioning schemes.
The call came as the SNP revealed that only 11% of the £1.8m, First Minister Jack McConnell made available for the onshore sector was ever paid out leaving a short fall of over £1.6m.
During a meeting with representatives from various North-east harbour business at Fraserburgh Engineering this morning, Shadow Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead MSP and Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson called for the publication of an action plan including funding towards the following measures that will help affected firms survive:
- Diversification and innovation assistance
- Skills and retraining development
- Rates relief
- Export assistance
- New product development
“In the run up to the 2003 elections, First Minister Jack McConnell promised to help harbour businesses survive the latest decommissioning scheme that slashed the size of the white fish fleet on which many small companies throughout Scotland depended. Over a year later, it transpires that only a fraction of the £1.8m available has been paid out to the scores of small firms based around the country’s harbours to help them survive.
“For every fishing job at sea, there are six ashore employed by the engineering companies, painters, netmakers, harbours and other employers that rely on the fishing fleet for business. Despite taking away their customers, Jack McConnell and Ross Finnie have left these firms in the lurch.
“Indeed, Ministers have kept back over £11m from the aid schemes and now they must use some of this cash to fund an action plan for the fishing industry’s onshore sector before they go under.”
Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson added:
“It is vital we have focussed support for diversification and wider accessibility of funds for retraining. The fishing industry indirectly supports a whole range of businesses around the harbours, in our coastal towns and beyond into the rural community.
“The Scottish Executive must address the shortcomings of their aid package as a matter of urgency.”
Note: Parliamentary Answer S2W-08009 states that only £198,920 has been paid from the £1.8m made available for businesses in Aberdeen, Buckie, Eyemouth, Kinlochbervie, Lochinver, Mallaig, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Shetland, Ullapool and Wick affected by events in the white fish sector. First Minister Jack McConnell announced the scheme on 11 March 2003 during a visit to Aberdeen.