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14 December 2018

Stevenson Urges UK Govt to Work with Scottish Govt on Next Year's Fisheries Negotiations

'UK Can Learn From Scottish Experience Of Sitting Outside Negotiations But Still Being Able To Influence Them'

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged the UK Government to learn from the Scottish experience of being excluded from EU fisheries negotiations yet still being able to exert influence when it comes to 2019’s round of negotiations.
The SNP MSP was speaking in this week’s fisheries debate in Parliament. Mr Stevenson said:

“Fishing is an important industry. Nearly 5,000 people are employed on Scotland-based vessels, but many more onshore depend on the industry. We have to learn from the Scottish Government’s experience over the years of sitting outside the council chamber that we can still influence what happens inside it. I hope that, next year, the UK Government will not go there too pessimistic about being outside the core decision making, but will work with the Scottish Government and learn how to get what we need when not sitting in the council chamber.”

Speaking during the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“I did a quick sum before the debate: I think that this is my 11th or 12th speech on fisheries negotiations since becoming a member. Each year’s negotiations have their own individual tempo and issues. The enduring feature is that the fishermen’s representatives, whether the SFF, the Scottish White Fish Producers Association or others, do not support any political party. In fact, they want all of us to be their allies in the fisheries negotiations and throughout the year. I am certainly up for that.

“I first attended a fisheries council as a backbencher with our shadow fisheries minister, Richard Lochhead, in 2002. The commissioner at the time was Franz Fischler, who is from Austria, which is—and this perfectly illustrates the issue—a country that has no coast whatsoever and no interest in the common fisheries policy. We met his assistant and adviser, Maja Kirchner, who was a lawyer, not a fishing scientist or a fishing person. That, too, neatly captures the problems with the way that the EU deals with fishing.

“I remind members that I brought the first and, so far, only debate that we have had in the Parliament on the SFF’s sea of opportunity, which received support from across the chamber. We do not need to argue about whether we agree about the sea of opportunity: we clearly do, and we should not create false barriers to suggest otherwise.

“Fishermen are certainly hunters, but they are also conservationists, because they know that, if they do not leave fish in the sea this year, there will be none to hunt next year, and none for their sons, their grandsons and their communities to hunt in future. We should listen to our fishermen.

“In the form in which it has come from Europe, the landing obligation has presented a substantial problem that has been referred to already. In the briefing that it sent me, the SFF refers to choke species, which is a big issue that rightly comes up at every single meeting of the North-east Fisheries Development Partnership, whose meetings I attend almost all of—I have missed one or two in the past 10 years.

“In 2017, I talked about the need to get ‘100 per cent control over our waters out to 200 miles’. I continue to support that to this day.”

Stewart Stevenson
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