Having enjoyed some poached salmon today with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for fisheries, may I ask my hon. and learned Friend to bear in mind the importance of salmon fishing to the tourist industry and to the the development of hotels in Scotland? Will he bring home to procurators fiscal and all involved that we must take a tough line with poachers if we are to achieve advancement in this area?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I am sure he is aware that the Salmon Act 1986 came into force last week. It is for that reason that my noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, myself and the Crown Office have brought to the attention of procurators fiscal what is contained within the Act and made it clear to them that the provisions that deal with what might be described now as the statutory reset of poached salmon should be implemented wherever appropriate.
Given the draconian penalties laid down in the Salmon Act 1986, which mean that someone who is in possesion of a salmon in certain circumstances can be sent to prison for two years, and to avoid any accusations that the Crown Office is less than even-handed, will the Solicitor-General for Scotland assure ordinary working-class poachers who take an occasional salmon for the pot that they will get off with a friendly warning from the procurator fiscal in the same way as the Duke of Argyll and his cronies, who have been net fishing illegally for years in Loch Fyne and getting away with it scot-free?
The hon. Gentleman should be aware, as everyone else is, of the importance of salmon fishing to the tourist industry in Scotland. He should not think, even in a casual and half-comical fashion, that there is anything funny about the level of poaching in Scotland's rivers, which is causing real problems. If the hon. Gentleman would like to move away from the central belt occasionally and travel to the east coast of Scotland, the north-east or into the Highlands, he would learn of the serious effect that poaching and the prevalence of it has had on the tourist industry.
What does the Solicitor-General for Scotland think of the apparent complacency with which the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland accepts the fact that its own recently published figures show that 14 per cent. of Scottish salmon fishery owners in the country did not even bother to submit, as they were legally supposed to do, return forms for their catches? Is the hon. and learned Gentleman concerned about that illegality, to which the Department is turning a blind eye?
One person who did make a return to the Department on that matter was the Duke of Argyll. However, if the proprietors of salmon fisheries are not making the appropriate returns, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that that is essentially a matter for my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. MacKay).