Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
The fishing industry in
Scotland comprises a significant proportion of the United Kingdom
fishing industry. A recent inquiry by the Royal Society of Edinburgh
found fishing to be of much greater social, economic and cultural
importance to Scotland than it is relative to the rest of the UK.
Scotland has just under 8.6% of the UK population but lands at its ports
over 60% of the total catch in the UK.
Many of these are ports in relatively remote communities such as
Fraserburgh, Kinlochbervie or Lerwick, which are scattered along an
extensive coastline and which, for centuries, have looked to fishing as
the main source of employment. Restrictions imposed under the Common
Fisheries Policy (CFP) affect all European fishing fleets, but they have
proved particularly severe in recent years for the demersal or whitefish
sector (boats mainly fishing for cod, haddock and whiting) of the
Scottish fishing industry.
However as a direct result of being in the
EU the Scottish Fishing Industry has lost some 100,000 jobs, which in
turns means we have lost some £2 billion in annual revenue and as
one person put it...
To summarise, - our fishing sector is much
more severely depleted than we thought. We have a pelagic (mackerel)
fleet of just 24 ships most of which are owned and run by greedy crooks
with criminal records of misreporting and lying about catches and
landings of many millions of pounds.
The once famed demersal (white fish) fleet is composed now of a few
score of mainly under ten metre vessels, and its access to our coastal
fishing areas is being sorely diminished by SNP sell-out to green
organisations who are gradually getting control of key local fishing
grounds by means of a series of legal MPAs - marine protected areas.
Our prawn fleet (now earning more than the demersal boats), is in dire
economic straits and struggling to survive financially. As I said many
times before, - their biggest costs are not the vessels or their
equipment, but two pieces of paper. - namely their licenses and their
quota allocations. And our iniquitous quota trade system is seeing a
steady accumulation of fishing entitlement by the powerful and wealthy -
even the banks now own piles of quota, - taken off boats that slipped
into debt or bankruptcy. This affects both the demersal and prawn
fleets. (The pelagic boats are unaffected since not a single one of
their greedy multi-millionaire owners would ever offer quota for sale).
We still have "carpet slipper" skippers; - retired fishers who got or
bought quota many years ago, and now lease some of it short term to
other unfortunate fishers who are struggling to get access to fish
Beyond all that, - take a look around our ports and you can see the
devastation wreaked on the basic framework of the industry, in the
derelict boatyards and marine workshops, and the former net chandlers
now turned into touristy shops to serve the yachting fraternity. As our
fishing boats have vanished, their place in our harbours has been filled
up by yachts. Then there is the loss of our skilled boat-builders and
engineers with the closure of their premises. The few still around now
work in the oil industry.
In the face of all that I just could not draft a positive fishing policy
for the future. And I see no sign that current SNP policy would change
things much, - even given independence. If we had a Scottish version of
UKIP, it might agree, - but we don't. The infection and misdirection of
the SDA does not bode well.
What I would strongly recommend (given independence), - would be :
recovery of our grounds lost to the EU; - scrapping of the quota system
to put all fish stocks under national ownership and control in close
partnership with local ports and fleets; - curtailing the MPAs and
keeping the green organisations at arms length; - and international
fishery cooperation agreements with each of the non-EU fishing states
like Iceland, Norway, Faroe, Russia, etc.
However I am pretty sure that no one in any position of power would
listen to such ideas.
As one poet once said (I think G K Chesterton) - "I tell you naught for
your comfort, - yea not for your hearts desire, - save that the sky
grows darker yet and the sea rises higher".
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