Fish Processing Industry

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:44 pm on 2nd July 1999.

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Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 12:44 pm, 2nd July 1999

I congratulate David Davidson on securing the first item of members' business since yesterday's historic events and for choosing jobs in the fish processing industry as the subject. I am also delighted that we are again discussing fishing matters-one of our first debates was also on a fishing matter, which shows the priority that this Parliament has given to the fishing industry.

Mr Davidson has eloquently expressed the concerns of the fish processing industry. I do not want to repeat what he has said in detail. I want to put on record the fact that, although the industry agrees with all the aims and objectives of the urban waste water directive, it is concerned that implementation will threaten many jobs in the north-east of Scotland.

The industry seeks a lasting and cost-effective solution. I can see no reason why NOSWA would oppose a delay in the implementation of the directive. There is nothing to prevent the minister from negotiating with Brussels for such a delay; it is a question of political will and determination. This is a new Parliament, the minister has a new position and she can decide to stick up for the industry by flying to Brussels to discuss with the relevant EU officials this important matter, which affects the livelihoods of many people in the north-east of Scotland.

The industry is asking for a breathing space. Even in the past few weeks there have been developments on this issue. Mr Davidson referred to a number of them. Labour-controlled Aberdeen City Council decided to proceed with its widely supported plans for the industry in that city. Today, Aberdeenshire Council is also discussing proposals to help the industry. The area's political representatives are doing what they can to support the industry's demands and industry leaders, some of whom we have with us today, are doing what they can for the employees.

It would be a great pity if Sarah Boyack did not do what she could to help. The key to arriving at an agreeable solution is in the minister's hands. If the minister does not decide today to bring a fresh approach from the Government, there could be job losses throughout the north-east of Scotland. NOSWA's bills could rise even higher. The north-east already pays the highest water bills in the country, but if the private finance initiative projects go ahead, the people of the north-east will pay money that is simply profit for the shareholders of those companies, such as Yorkshire Water, that are proposing to fund the projects. The people of the north-east will not accept that. If the minister takes no action, she will be getting off to a very poor start.

I make four requests of the minister. First, when she winds up the debate, I ask her not to use the dog-eared brief that was used by her predecessor in Westminster. We want to see a fresh approach. Secondly, I ask the minister to show determination and political willingness to negotiate with the EU representatives in Brussels at the earliest opportunity. Thirdly, I ask her to instruct NOSWA not to sign any more contracts in connection with the PFI projects until the matter is resolved in favour of the food processing and fish processing industries in the north-east. Finally, I ask her to use the opportunity of her visit to Aberdeen, where she will be next week on another matter, to meet representatives from NOSWA, the local authorities and the industry to discuss how the Government can help the industry to overcome the impending crisis. I ask the minister to make a positive response to Mr Davidson's motion.