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Thursday, 22 September 2011

EU Fishing Fleet Rules 'Disastrous'

The rules governing the fishing fleet are an "unmitigated disaster", Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has claimed.

The SNP minister said the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has failed to do what it was designed to achieve. Most of the stock is over-fished, valuable species are caught but thrown back into the sea dead and fishing communities are being damaged, he told MSPs.

Mr Lochhead, leading a debate at the Scottish Parliament, said: "I expect and hope that we can all agree that the CFP has been an unmitigated disaster. It has been a horror story since the day it was written. Fish stocks have been slashed, vital jobs have vanished and communities have been cut up.

"The very people who have to cope with its consequences are disenfranchised from the decision-making process. Our fishermen who struggle day in, day out, with the Byzantine regulations will certainly agree with that.

"I and the 27 other ministers - who have to sit in Brussels into the early hours in December attempting to decide the mesh sizes for individual fisheries from the Baltic to the Bay of Biscay - also agree."

The Scottish Government wants a guaranteed seat at the table in European negotiations, instead of representation by UK ministers, but Labour MSP Elaine Murray defended the role of Westminster.

She agreed that the CFP does not work, but added: "If an independent Scotland joined the EU, it would have to adhere to the Common Fisheries Policy. It could of course negotiate for itself as one of a large number of nations - there would be at least 36 by the time an independent Scotland joined."

She said the number of MEPs in Scotland would remain at about six from a pool of more than 700.

"Quite frankly, I and my colleagues on this side of the House fail to understand how this would better protect the interests of the Scottish fleet," she added.

"Surely the best way to protect the Scottish industry is to work to persuade our UK colleagues that the Scottish interest is also the UK interest?"

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