We are a small group who favour
Scotland’s independence from both the United Kingdom and the
European Union, although we do believe that Scotland should continue
its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA).
We took great interest in the
article, “Eyewitness: Ingrid Melander in Brussels”, published in the
leading Scottish newspaper, The Scotsman, on 6 February 2009.
The first sentence of the article
stated that the
of Iceland's fishing industry – an issue that strikes to the heart of
its national identity – will be the hardest obstacle to resolve if it
applies to join the European Union.”
It is difficult to see why Iceland should apply to join the EU, since
the EEA already gives it all the main advantages of full membership.
Our group believe that joining the EU would be permanently disastrous
for Iceland – and not only for its fishing industry. Iceland’s present
financial situation is dire, but it is temporary.
● ● ● ● ●
been a key element of the Scottish economy for many centuries, even
thousands of years.
During those centuries the Scottish
fishing industry harvested the seas while maintaining healthy fish
stocks in balance with the rate of exploitation.
In 1970 this all changed with the advent
of control from Brussels, a move that resulted in an economic,
environmental, ecological, social and cultural disaster.
The direct results for Scotland have
included almost 100,000 job losses and an annual loss of wealth
creation of the order of ₤1,500 million.
This exposition is devoted to analysing
the development of the present situation and the forces behind it,
without which it cannot be properly understood or appropriate measures
of Control from Brussels
Union’s Common Fisheries Policy
(CFP), dating from 1970,
basically consists of an agreement between the then six members of the
European Economic Community
(EEC) that fishing vessels
belonging to member states would have free and equal access to the
waters of all other members
(Directive 2141/70, later replaced by 101/76).
purpose was to gain unrestricted access to the rich
(being strictly conserved) fish
stocks of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway, which together with
Denmark had just applied to join the
EEC, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC, amalgamated with the
EEC in 2001) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
nothing to do with management or conservation.
It was a ruthless political gambit, with
no legal basis, to give powerful commercial interests in other member
states an entry ticket to the well conserved Norwegian, UK and
especially Scottish waters, which they would otherwise have been
unable to exploit.
Later, as EU global ambitions expanded,
the control of the surrounding seas was seen as another function that
could be added to the EU’s powers to help it on its way to becoming a
Norwegians, in a referendum, rejected the terms negotiated by their
government. Norway then remained a member of the European Free
Trade Association (EFTA) and later joined the
EFTA/EU umbrella organisation
known as the European Economic Area (EEA).
UK became a member of the
EEC, the European Coal and Steel
Community (ECSC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)
on 1 January 1973.
(now two) economic institutions
became known collectively as the European Community,
which now constitutes the so-called First Pillar of the European
Union. Unlike the second and third “pillars” of the EU, which are
intergovernmental in nature, the European Community is supranational,
which means that its rules are directly binding on member states.
In 1973, apart from open access, there was no EU
fisheries “policy” as such.
after it became obvious that
free access to the fishing grounds for all was going to have
disastrous ecological and economic effects, an enormous complex of
rules and quotas was drawn up in a futile attempt to correct the
damage – but without addressing the root cause of the damage.
These ‘sticking plaster’ amendments – the
real CFP – only made matters worse.
original agreement on open access, these measures were of highly
dubious legality, as well as being unmanageable, and with increasing
Community membership have merely aggravated the situation.
The predictable result was the collapse of
The transitional arrangements leading to
full open access ran out at the end of 2002, and there is still no
sign of any genuine reform of the CFP.
Effects of the CFP on the Scottish Fishing Industry
reserves of fish stocks in Scottish waters at first ran down only
slowly under the increased pressures in a Community of nine members.
The real deterioration began after 1975, and accelerated from around
1980. Up to 1983 there were no licences and only limited quota
allocations, but from then on the regulatory pressures increased and
“dog-eat-dog” situation created by abolishing the three mile limit and
allowing European fleets into the national Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ) pitched Scottish fishermen against each other, and
this accelerated the reduction of inshore fish stocks, particularly in
the Firths and Minches. The owners of larger Scots pair trawlers and
pursers felt they should harvest the coastal stocks before Continental
vessels caught them. The British government completely failed to
institute local fishery management schemes as it had in effect
conceded fishery management authority to Europe.
situation changed again dramatically when Spain and Portugal joined
the Community in 1986.
Offshore fishing in Spain is in the hands
of large industrial combines that exert considerable political power.
Spain entered the
CFP with a huge fishing fleet not
much smaller than the entire remaining Community fleets combined, and
contributed nothing substantial to the sum total of Community
From the beginning, the by now already
over-fished Scottish waters were a prime target for Spanish
In order to
give the southern
EEC members access to a “common
resource” that by this stage was totally inadequate to sustain the
inordinate catching capacities that were now to be let loose on it,
the fishing sectors of Scotland and the other northern countries were
systematically run down to make way for the incomers.
The effects on Scotland of
this piratical Brussels policy and grossly excessive foreign access
can be illustrated by the following official statistics for
operational Scottish boats over 10 metres in length. Note that
EU-enforced decommissioning of vessels has brought about most of the
reduction, as well as the sale of some no longer viable, due to quota
restrictions and the loss of fishing grounds to EU fleets.
Decommissioning assistance is regarded as
a last resort, since the actual grants are very meagre:
Scottish waters opened to boats of 8 countries
Fish stocks declining – decommissioning &
Spain & Portugal enter CFP
Apparent reduction in fish stocks – yet more
Perceived collapse of cod stocks – panic
restrictions by Brussels
Brussels devoid of an answer except still more decommissioning
represents a reduction of two thirds in the Scottish fishing fleet
since joining the CFP, with corresponding downstream effects on fish
processing, boat building, and other shore industries. More than 1,100
offshore boats have been removed, mostly from the demersal fleet
(although official figures have recently been inflated by counting
small inshore vessels down to rowing boat size that previously were
never included in the statistics). At 2004 values (an average taken
over five years) each of these sold or decommissioned boats would have
grossed on average more than £310,000 annually from around 330 tons of
fish. The loss of direct income to the catching sector was therefore a
minimum of £334 million annually. Of this, £110 million would have
been crew wages, with the remaining £224 million lost to the vessel
services including fuel, boat repairs, gear, insurance, banks,
groceries, harbours, transport.
Local fish processing has also suffered
Added value, fish processing and marketing, etc.,
raise the economic value of the annual loss considerably. The
recognised GDP impact ratio for fisheries is 2.35 times the landed
value. Thus the direct economic impact of the reduction of the
Scottish fishing fleet in 1975-2003 was an annual loss to the Scottish
economy of a staggering £785 million in respect of vessels of 10
metres and over alone.
The costs to
public funds of unemployment and other social benefits as well as
broader economic consequences, including loss of tax income, probably
brought the total loss nearer to £900 million every year. This exceeds
by a huge margin any economic benefits Scotland receives from the
European Union, especially when it is considered that Scotland as a
member of the UK is already a substantial net contributor to the EU.
calculations were made in 2004, on the basis of the then available
information, by Dr James Wilkie, with data and guidance from Japanese
economist Kaz Nagao, Fishermen’s Association (FAL) Secretary Roddy
McColl, and fishery consultant David Thomson.
The figures have now been shown to be an
under-estimate by an excellent 2009 study by The Taxpayers’ Alliance,
which reveals that the total annual economic cost to the UK of the EU
Common Fisheries Policy is £2,813 million, or £2.8 billion (American
billion 109 – European billion 1012 is
Of that total, £2,100 million was from the
loss of access to home waters.
Scotland has over 66 % of the UK EEZ, then £1,400 million of that loss
relates to Scotland.
Adding the other estimates proportionally
from the TPA study now make the Scottish fisheries sector loss due to
the CFP over £1,500 million every single year. The 2004 SEP
calculation of £ 0.9 million including the wider related sectors is
therefore forty per cent lower than the more recent TPA figure. Little
wonder that nobody in the UK government or Brussels repudiated the
estimate at the time.
Dr Lee Rotherham, who carried out the research for The Taxpayers’
“For years everyone has known, even in Brussels, that the Common
Fisheries Policy has been a disaster. It has trashed the environment,
wrecked coastal communities like Hull and Grimsby, and dumped hundreds
of thousands of tonnes of dead fish uselessly back into the sea. If
any government minister had ordered such actions, he would have been
lynched. The time is long overdue to scrap the CFP and manage our
territorial seas with the self-interest and self-enlightenment of
countries like Norway, Iceland and Canada.”
Costing the Common
Fisheries Policy, January 2009
on the TPA study, the Aberdeen (Scotland)
Press and Journal in its
editorial of 30 January 2009, The Price of Fish, wrote:
any proof were needed that the European Union’s Common Fisheries
Policy is one of the most damaging political schemes ever to affect a
UK industry, some facts about its impact on every single household
will help. Pressure group The Taxpayer’s Alliance has calculated that
the policy costs every family £111 a year in higher taxes and lost
business and puts ₤186 a year on the average food bill. As the north
and northeast of Scotland has witnessed, the impact on jobs has been
severe. More than 9,000 directly in fishing and up to 90,000 have been
lost from onshore dependent industries. This is before the baffling
phenomenon of throwing away tons of dead fish each year has been
The problem with the CFP of course, is
that we are pretty much stuck in a world in which the European Union
will forever meddle with this vital Scottish industry. …
The CFP is a triumph of pork barrel
politics over commonsense and compassion.”
benefits to Scotland of EU membership could possibly compensate for
this haemorrhage of Scotland’s economic wealth. The appalling figure
of lost value creation of ₤1,500 million every single year, and the
loss of almost 100,000 jobs from the Scottish employment market,
represents nothing less than a national disaster – brought about for
no better reason than the crazed ideology of “sharing the common
resource” with other EU member countries.
What the figures
cannot reveal is the amount of personal tragedy and communal
disruption that lie behind them: bankruptcies, the uprooting of
individuals and families, the destruction of thriving communities with
centuries-old cultural traditions and communal lives. Major harbours,
like Lossiemouth, that were the focus of social and economic life
twelve months in the year, are now marinas for a handful of yachts.
One can imagine the reaction if Brussels had reduced the Spanish or
French fishing fleets by almost two thirds simply to make way for
incomers. And fishing is by no means as important to those countries
as it is to Scotland.
In the following section we analyse the situation
from its beginnings in 1970 and, in the light of current political
developments in Scotland, present our views on what the relevant
Scottish policy goals should be, both within and without the European
The Underlying Factors
There are four principal elements in the broad
complex of motivational factors that govern the Community’s policy on
fisheries as it affects Scotland:
first, considerably underestimated one is
ostensible primary reason for having a European Community policy on
fisheries at all is the so-called “European Ideal” or “European Idea”,
in this case expressed as the argument that common resources should be
shared equally between member states. This view is genuinely held by
many of the decision makers from the landlocked countries, among whom
knowledge of the actual maritime situation is either limited or
For most of
the fishing states, however, it represents the justification for
exploiting the resources of more fish-rich neighbours in order to
maintain fishing fleets and levels of employment that they could not
sustain from the resources of their own waters.
It goes without saying that, if they are
gaining, somebody else must be losing, not the best of neighbourhood
The then six members of the European Economic
Community suddenly discovered this allegedly idealistic “principle”
one day before the opening
of entry negotiations with Denmark and the fish-rich states Norway,
Ireland and the UK. It was blatant opportunism by politically powerful
fishing lobbies in five of the Six, with the obvious exception of tiny
landlocked Luxembourg. There was no necessity otherwise for the move,
especially since the EEC
treaty contained no provision empowering the Community to become
involved in fisheries at all. Unfortunately for the credibility of
the argument, fish are so far the only “common resource” to have been
identified. The sharing of others is evidently not contemplated. And
no other group of fishing nations has thought it necessary to give
each other “equal access to a common resource”, although fishery
cooperation is conducted harmoniously between the ASEAN, SADEC and
Pacific states, which all retain control of their own EEZ resources.
In reality, it is not so much
a case of sharing the resource (which would be done anyway through the
single European market) but rather more one of carving up the fish
catching capacity, and hence the employment and economic benefits as
well as the value added in the ancillary industries. This blatantly
“principle” implies that a country
with, say, a coastline of 4,000 kilometres, and hundreds of
communities dependent on fishing, should have a catching capacity no
larger than that of another country with a coastline of 40 km, or -
theoretically - none at all.
It also implies a planned
reduction of employment in the fisheries sector in certain countries,
above all Scotland, in order to protect or expand employment in
certain others – something for
which there is no enabling provision in any treaty. Therefore, in
the eyes of the Euro-ideologists, who seem to be blind to the sheer
immorality and indeed illegality of what they are doing, the
systematic destruction of most of the Scottish fishing industry is a
small and acceptable price to pay for the achievement of this
overriding “ideal”. It is a classic case at best of applied lunacy, or
perhaps more accurately another example of the EU's endemic moral
corruption and lack of ethics.
The reasoning behind this
ideology (insofar as it is not just cynical manipulation) is not easy
to comprehend in a maritime environment; however, some fundamentals
must be grasped. The integration movement in Europe, with the
associated attempts to establish a common European identity, is a
product of Central European history. One must be acquainted with this,
and with the Central European mind, in order to understand it. In the
light of 20th century history it regards “the great work of European
unification” not simply as a necessity, but also as a burning ethical
ideal that sheds its golden ray from the moral high ground.
of its strong peacekeeping element, integration has in fact been
completely successful; another war between Western European countries
is not merely unthinkable, but also materially impossible, due to the
interlinking of their economies.
The emotive element should not be
underestimated, however. Its protagonists look back on the
ninth-century Frankish empire under Charlemagne as the last time
Europe was “united”, and regard the present integration movement as
the rebirth of that alleged ideal.
This Central European view is, of course,
a completely foreign concept to the island and Scandinavian peoples
like the Scots, who were never involved in those continental empires.
Be that as it may, the
generation that learned the lessons of European divisiveness from hard
experience during the past century has now passed away, and all that
is left is a mindless integrationist ideology – integration for the
sake of integration.
It is noteworthy that the ideological,
indeed quasi-imperialist “what-we-have-we-hold” attitude is most
pronounced among diplomats and politicians from landlocked countries
with no direct interest in fishing.
understand the maritime situation, nor do they attempt to do so, and
can become quite short-tempered with anyone who questions the holy
principle of integration.
with horror any retreat from the degree that has already been achieved
as a dangerous regression towards the nationalist excesses that tore
the continent apart during the 20th century. This is reflected in
their voting within the Fisheries Council, where they will always side
with the Brussels centralists.
This may be understandable
coming from a landlocked country with a turbulent history that shares
common borders with half a dozen others in Central Europe, but the
result is that principles, policies and structures that have
essentially been tailored to Central European conditions are being
applied in an arbitrary manner to maritime and island communities, as
if there were no geographical, demographic, economic, social or
cultural differences there. The implications of this policy are
The stated policy is to have a common EU fishing
fleet operating without restriction anywhere within the waters of
member countries, and controlled from Brussels.
(There is no such thing as “EU waters” or “Community waters”, since
international law recognises only the national waters (EEZ) of the
individual member states.)
acute danger of the EU fisheries policy arises directly from this
ideological basis, since it clearly implies the de facto creation of a
single European state. This has implications that go far beyond
second and by now major factor is
This was the obvious motivation behind the original “open-access”
policy, which was adopted by the Six in 1970 even although their own
experts had pointed out to them that there was no legal basis for it
in any provision of the EEC treaty. It has remained the dominating
factor to this day, with the pseudo-ethical “European Ideal” as
window-dressing. It is not the first time in history that lofty
principles have been advanced to justify the pursuit of naked
These nationalist excesses have been manifest
since then at every meeting of the Fisheries Council, which apparently
has the primary function of a platform for the greatest degree of
exploitation of the CFP that national delegates can wring out of it.
representatives of Spain, and also those of Denmark and to a lesser
extent the Netherlands and France, have used diplomatic pressure to
advance the interests of their fishing industries irrespective of the
consequential damage caused to others. For example, Denmark’s
industrial sand-eel fishing has been particularly harmful to other
interests, since it has destroyed the food chain for other species
like cod, thereby making it one of the major causes of the present
crisis. Spain, having fished its own waters virtually to extinction,
has pursued a policy of unrestricted access by its enormous fleet to
the waters of other members, no doubt to repeat the process there.
The governments of other
member states, with politically powerful interests breathing down
their necks, are often in no position to make concessions.
Decisions in the Fisheries Council are
routinely taken on political grounds, with expert advice being ignored
where it conflicts with national interests. Due to political
pressures, backed by powerful commercial fishing lobbies, national
quotas have for years been allocated on an aggregate basis far in
excess of what is ecologically sustainable. Our fishery scientists
have complained privately that their professional findings and
recommendations have been regularly misrepresented and misused to
support political decisions.
has been conspicuous by its absence in the cut-throat scramble to
plunder Scotland’s resources, and the result has been seen in the
inevitable collapse of fish stocks.
It should be
pointed out that the CFP injustice also adversely affects the
remaining English and Irish fishing industries as well as the numerous
small-scale inshore fishers in other countries, who complain about it
as vociferously as the Scots, but are rarely listened or referred to.
The Spanish cofradias and
the Galician “Cediera Charter” are major examples of their protest.
Any change in the system brought about by the Scots would also work to
their benefit, as well as that of inshore fishers in Portugal, France
third factor is the nature of the
decision-making process and
management system in Brussels, where integrationist ideology is
paramount. There is a lack of knowledge, or wilful ignorance, of the
practicalities of fishing among the Eurocrats and politicians active
in Brussels, and in many cases among their scientific advisers too.
For years we
have seen quotas allocated and effort control measures taken
mechanically by ministers who have no real conception of what they are
doing. This accounts for some of the most heinous blunders they have
One the worst of these blunders is the discards
situation, which by ICES estimates causes the destruction of up to
600,000 tons of fish each year. Single species quota allocations
inevitably result in a by-catch of other non-quota species. Any
fisherman could have told the EC that nobody has yet invented a trawl
net capable of catching only one species of fish, let alone fish
species in relative quantities that accord with the latest changes in
The heavy penalties for landing the
inevitable extra catch, often the major proportion, as “black fish”
mean that, every time the net is hauled, this perfectly saleable
by-catch has to be thrown overboard - dead, to rot on the seabed or
provide food for seabirds, lost to the industry, the consumers and the
Since boats have to bring an economic catch back
to port, this senseless waste of valuable stock means more time at sea
fishing for the legal quota species, more fuel consumed, an escalating
number of discards with every net haul, and consequent devastating
damage to fish stocks overall. It is economic and ecological lunacy -
and this is only one of many examples of Brussels incompetence.
Decision makers in Brussels
consistently refuse to admit such irrational errors (though there now
seems to be the beginnings of an admission that this was unwise). They
don’t want to lose face, and so fiercely defend their decisions, even
when integrationist ideology is plainly in conflict with common sense.
The emperor has been revealed to have no clothes, but the show must go
The refusal to allow one iota of decision-making power to be removed
from Brussels has reduced the whole fisheries system to Stalinist
This setup was a disaster after 70 years
of experience within the Soviet Union, and it has been a similar
disaster after more than 30 years of experience within the European
As in the former and now defunct Soviet
Union, it is the ultimate failure of “big government”, of
over-centralisation, of trying to manage at too low a level, instead
of delegating –one of the cardinal sins of professional management
Since the EU is already over-stretched
here, the outlook for a centralised fisheries management system after
any further enlargement is distinctly unpromising, to say the least of
It might be mentioned at this point that many students of the EU
believe there was a secret back-room deal or deals to share out
predominance in major economic sectors, for example: UK – banking and
finance; France and Italy - wine; Germany, France and Italy – motor
vehicle manufacture; and Spain – fish.
This is not mentioned as established fact,
but the very existence of such opinions illustrates just how far the
European Union has gone along the road of institutionalised oligarchy
In apparent confirmation of these views
the UK government has pointedly washed its hands of its fishing
fourth factor affecting Scotland is therefore
UK government policy. Not
simply economically, but also emotively, the ruling elite in London
were committed to entry into “Europe” as compensation for the loss of
an empire and of their own influence. Although the UK was already a
member of all the other European organisations in the early 1970s,
Prime Minister Edward Heath and his negotiators wanted to take the
country into the 6-member European Economic Community (EEC), European
Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)
at almost any price. The methods he used to buy entry, using the
Scottish fishing industry as a bargaining counter, have left a
The opening of the relevant records under the
30-year rule has brought to light the fact that Heath was fully aware
that the conditions to which he agreed would eventually kill the
Scottish fishing industry. This was deliberately concealed from the
industry and the country at large, in defiance of all the canons of
democratic legitimacy and open government, because it was obvious what
sort of a reaction it would have provoked.
of an “expendable” Scottish fishing industry (the word “expendable” is
actually used in the records of the former Scottish Office) has
continued under every UK successor government since then, including
that by the Labour Party under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
administration is riddled with secret deals and backstairs carve-ups
between governments, and it is clear that, in respect of fishing, the
UK has got itself onto a hook that it cannot wriggle off without
losing out in other directions.
Just what the
quid pro quo for throwing
the Scottish fishing industry to the sharks might be has never yet
It is extremely doubtful if it has brought
Scotland any benefits at all in other directions; at any rate we not
been informed of any.
The UK government clearly has no intention of
altering this policy of using the Scottish fishing industry as a
trade-off, and refuses to come into the open with any explanation of
the reasons behind it.
The official UK response to the
Commission’s Green Paper on the modernisation of the CFP was a model
of supine acceptance of the system.
Even more mysterious was UK
Commissioner Neil Kinnock’s dismissal of a reform-minded Fisheries
Director-General in Brussels after political pressure from Spanish
Prime Minister Aznar and Commission President Prodi.
Everything here points to a surreptitious
carve-up between London and Madrid, possibly over Gibraltar or other
economic share-outs, with the Scottish fishing industry as a pawn in
And Scotland, with three quarters of the
UK fishing industry, has been represented (and conspicuously not
defended) in Brussels by the English fisheries minister.
The fact that this murky double-dealing
conflicts with the stated EU principle of transparency does not seem
to concern any of the participants.
This all goes to prove beyond
doubt that Scotland’s interests in Europe generally (i.e. not simply
the EU) are not being, and can never be, adequately or safely
represented through London. Any solution must take the form of direct
Scottish representation at European level. It is only the form and
status of that representation that is open to discussion.
The CFP after
could be said that there are also other factors involved, like
technology creep and lack of discipline among fishermen. These,
however, are secondary issues that ought to be kept under control by
any efficient management system. It is further proof of the failure of
the centralised Brussels system that it has shown no sign of being
able to do so.
The insidious propaganda that has been put about
ever since the Bonino regime in Brussels is that, without the EU
fisheries policy, the fish stocks situation would have been even
worse. It is astonishing and alarming to observe how many people all
over Europe, including important decision makers, actually believe
words, a balance between resources and exploitation that had
previously been maintained for centuries has been destroyed within the
space of a few years, and that has nothing to do with the CFP?
The argument is a pernicious lie. There is
overwhelming evidence that the root cause of the disaster is Brussels
mismanagement and overfishing, both resulting from an insane ideology.
Let us look at the future
situation. After the latest round of enlargement there are some 20 EU
countries with sea fishing industries of some kind, with others in the
queue for membership. If the present system continues we will
eventually see sturgeon in the Black Sea, swordfish in the Adriatic,
sardines in the Mediterranean, cod in the Atlantic, halibut in the
North Sea and herring in the Baltic all being administered from the
desk of the Fisheries Director-General in Brussels - this without
regard to all the other parameters like enormously varied local marine
conditions, unique local fish species, different economic, social and
cultural structures, and widely varying local fish consumption
the winners in the CFP cut-throat scramble for pickings at Scotland’s
expense have evidently managed to press home their advantage in the
drafting of the failed EU Draft Constitution (the so-called
“Constitution for Europe”), which has recently been resurrected as the
That treaty prescribes that fishing is to
be managed “jointly” by the EU and the member states.
It then takes that vague concession back
again in the adjoining provision that all marine biological resources
(by definition ranging from basking sharks to the last frond of
seaweed) are to come under the exclusive central control of the EU.
setup is patently impossible – there is no way it can be administered.
It does not seem to have occurred to the
politicians and bureaucrats concerned that this kind of centrally
directed economy is exactly the rock on which the Soviet Union
The attitudes one encounters remind one of
the old guard of the Soviet system, who, after 70 years of obvious
failure, were still convinced that their system would prove itself if
it were only given time.
Rigor mortis – the dead hand of Brussels
centralism that refuses to part with any powers once acquired –
remains the biggest single obstacle to the revival of the fishing
That said, what do we do about it? There
are two distinct aspects, which must be kept completely separate.
The first one is, of course, the current
fish stocks situation. That must be resolved by agreed measures,
however hard they may be in the short term, but without crippling the
Scottish fishing industry in the meantime.
The second and strategically
more important aspect is the need to remove the cause of the crisis,
in order to ensure that such a situation cannot arise again. The cause
of the disaster is beyond doubt the now totally discredited Common
As long as Scotland remains within the EU,
whether as part of the UK or as an independent member, that is where
the main effort has to be directed.
It is pointless to attempt to
achieve change within the framework of the CFP.
The factors mentioned above will always
prevent it. This is something that does not seem to have been taken on
board by the Scottish fishermen’s representatives.
The CFP system itself must be their
strategic target from now on.
Fighting over quotas, decommissioning,
etc., does nothing to remove the cause of the crisis.
The Scottish Parliament, when led by
Labour, was also astonishingly supine in this respect.
Some Minimum Strategic Reforms
The Scottish government should have a number of
minimum demands on the reform of the fishing industry, while
recognising that many of the detailed measures will require close
consultation with the fishing community itself.
Some of these proposed measures could be
implemented under the EU common fisheries policy as currently
However, we see no genuine prospects of
success in this direction, since other governments would certainly
veto any such moves.
If an independent Scotland were to remain
inside the EU, then CFP problems would continue to bedevil the
And so most or all of these measures will
have to await Scotland’s independence before they can be enacted.
the exception of distant-water vessels not fishing the waters of EU
members, there is no justification whatsoever for any member country
retaining a fishing fleet with a catching capacity larger than can be
maintained by the sustainable resources of its own national waters.
Any excess is merely a means of preying on the livelihoods of other
peoples. A country’s catching capacity must also be related to the
length of its coastline, which has a bearing on the number of
communities dependent on fishing.
EU aggregate capacity is grossly out of balance in both these
respects, with Spain’s long-distance fleet as the principal
overriding and absolutely non-negotiable principle is that local
fishing interests must have priority of access to marine resources,
with outsiders being admitted only where resources surplus to local
catching capacity are available, and when the local fishers agree.
must be decentralisation to national and regional fishing councils,
which must be responsible only to the national authorities whose
waters they cover.
Fishing in Scotland’s national waters must
be regulated only in agreement with the governments of immediately
There can be no question of any further
centralised administration from Brussels.
state claims to “own” migratory species, but it has a right to the
exclusive exploitation of such species within its sovereign territory.
This principle must be entrenched in European and international law
for migratory marine species, like all other resources on land and
must be exclusively in the hands of states with fishing industries.
Landlocked states with no access to the sea must be excluded from this
process, thereby departing from the present monolithic EU structure.
Management should be under the oversight
of joint fishery sector / government groups. The industry must have a
full say in all decisions.
Since no treaty empowers the European
Union to reduce employment in one member country in order to benefit
employment in another, the systematic reduction of the Scottish
fishing industry must be not only halted, but reversed.
The goal must be a planned restoration to
its previous status as regards catching capacity and employment
prospects, without regard to integrationist ideology.
direct industrial fishing must cease.
Fish should be caught only for human
consumption, and only that part of landings unsuitable for or
unacceptable to the market may be reduced to meal and oil.
‘designated ports’ rule that prohibits Scots fishers from landing at
smaller ports, must be scrapped, and small fishing harbours encouraged
to develop local fish businesses.
current quota system must be abolished, and replaced with a Faeroese
style effort-based system operating under a Scottish TAC (total
allowable catch) for each species.
The persons, companies and banks presently
holding quota entitlement would be allocated equivalent fishing
rights, but ultimately only active fishers should have fishing access.
These issues should be fully debated at
meetings with representatives of fishermen, fish merchants, coastal
communities, local and national government, and the scientific
towards greater autonomy and indeed constitutional independence is
currently a major force in Scottish politics..
The current Scottish government is making
commendable efforts to give local communities and coastal fleets more
say in the management of their local waters.
This has our full support.
After recent revelations
regarding the conduct of the UK negotiators, whose sacrifice of the
Scottish fishing industry as a bargaining counter on other unrelated
issues was little short of high treason, there is no longer a shred of
justification for the assertion that Scotland’s interests in Europe
are best protected by representation at UK level. This scandal is
accelerating the movement towards independence, and we are therefore
also obliged to take the ensuing scenario into consideration.
representation within the EU negotiating bodies would unquestionably
strengthen the influence exerted by the Scottish fishing industry at
It must be made clear, however, that,
while this would provide a better platform for obtaining concessions,
Scotland would always be outvoted in the various negotiating bodies,
as is the UK at present.
Representatives of the landlocked
countries, with an interest in maintaining the strong European
structure, would be almost certain to adopt the already mentioned
ideological/centralist attitude in the absence of any direct interest
Those of the fishing countries, under
powerful political pressure from commercial interests, would be out to
retain access to the Scottish fish stocks at all costs.
We are therefore not optimistic about the
prospects of actually obtaining the reforms suggested above.
benefits of direct EU membership – in respect of fisheries – would be
tangible, but very limited.
Scotland would have to balance any
overriding advantages of full EU membership against irreparable damage
to its fishing industry and the enormous annual past economic damage
and future consequential losses.
however, an alternative, namely, membership of the European Free Trade
Association and the EFTA/EU umbrella organisation, the European
Economic Area (EEA).
This possibility (which did not exist at
the time the UK left EFTA to join the EEC) would provide many of the
advantages of EU membership, including free access to the EU Internal
Market, without the major disadvantages.
It is presently the status of the fishing
countries Norway and Iceland, which seem to be in no hurry to change
The EEA, which is administered by a joint EFTA/EU committee, obliges
its members to adopt a major part of the EU Internal Market legal
code, the acquis communautaire (which already applies in
Scotland, so that not many changes would be required), but with
certain exceptions, including agriculture and fisheries.
Its EFTA members control their own waters,
and negotiate access by EU outsiders through the EU.
In respect of fisheries this structure
would be ideal for Scotland, and Scottish EEA/EFTA membership would
strengthen the hands of the existing members.
At any rate,
“Scotland in Europe”
does not inevitably mean “Scotland in the European Union”.
Integrated “Europe” has by no means
achieved its ultimate development, and it could be that the EFTA/EEA
structure is a harbinger of the future integration pattern for
countries in Scotland’s position.
Given that an existence outside the
European political structures is no longer practicable, on economic
and other grounds, we conclude that membership of the EFTA/EEA group
is the one and only practical solution to Scotland’s fisheries
problem, and possibly others too.
The present method of
administering fisheries at European level must be totally abolished if
a viable industry is to be assured and safeguarded.
There must be no further scope for
Brussels intrigue and UK government treachery.
There must be an end to the “fast buck”
exploitation of resources.
Fishing must be in the hands of people who
are personally involved and personally motivated to take the
strategic, long-term view of the protection of their livelihood, and
that of their children.
It is high time for Scotland to take the
initiative towards that end.