29 September 2016

Stevenson Warns Tories Cannot be Allowed to Sell Out Rural Economy

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, Stewart Stevenson warned that the Tories cannot be allowed to sell out fishing again and vital economic interests in rural communities.

Mr Stevenson spoke during a Parliamentary debate where he emphasised the importance of Brexit negotiation strategy. He also stressed that the negotiations on key Scottish rural interests would be best protected by a Scottish Minister taking the lead, while recognising there are both challenges and opportunities posed by Brexit.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“I agree with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation about the opportunities derived from Brexit. Therefore it’s essential we ensure that Westminster isn’t allowed to sell out the fish-catching sector as it did in 1973 when the Tories put us in the Common Fisheries Policy. Tory MP and Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell has already said that being entirely in control of our own fishing is not realistic. Negotiations haven’t even begun and the Tories area already trying to sell out Scottish fishing.

“In the past year the UK Government has delayed the monkfish swap, given preference to English white-fish trawlers on whiting and Artic cod, top sliced North Sea whiting from Scotland and given an excessive allocation of mackerel to the English inshore fleet. If we are to give Scottish industry confidence, we need someone with a bigger stake in the outcome to lead for us. As a former Minister I have represented the UK position in negotiations and there is nothing to stop the UK Government from allowing a Scottish Minister to lead fisheries negotiations.

“While I agree there are opportunities from Brexit for the catching sector, I also agree with NFU Scotland that there are major ‘red lines’ on trade agreements, agricultural support and labour. These issues extend to fish processing – access to labour and to market are critical. The single market is the largest fish market in the world and tends to purchase premium products. These must be taken into account as they will affect processing factories in Fraserburgh, Peterhead and throughout Scotland.

“The UK Government continues to hide its plans but emerging information indicates a hard Brexit. This approach would undermine opportunities derived from leaving the CFP and could cause severe economic damage to our rural communities. The Scottish Government is best placed to ensure we seek opportunities for the catching sector while protecting the Scottish rural economy as a whole.”

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