Fish Processing Industry

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:48 pm on 2nd July 1999.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative 12:48 pm, 2nd July 1999

In the run-up to the European election, our party's slogan was "In Europe, not run by Europe."

It proved quite popular with the electorate. I submit that this European waste water directive is an example of what we were talking about. It has been landed on the industry without consultation and its implementation will be disastrously expensive for the Scottish fish processing sector, whose 230 units provide 43 per cent of the sea fish processing employment in the UK. The industry is a vital employer in a region that has been decimated by the downturn in the oil and agriculture industries.

The directive will obviously affect the fishing industry as a whole, because the extra costs will push up the price of fish products in the shops, which will make them less competitive than other food products. Many processors will go out of business. Not only will jobs be lost, but some skills, such as the filleting of small fish, will disappear. Such skills are specific to the north-east; if they are lost now, they will be difficult to replace.

My friend, David Davidson, has talked about white fish in the north-east, but I would like to draw attention to Scottish salmon and trout producers and processors. The industry provides thousands of jobs in the Highlands and Islands and 38 processing units in Scotland deal only with salmon and trout. Recently, the hard-pushed salmon industry has been hit hard by the outbreaks of infectious salmon anaemia. It is nearly impossible for farms to obtain insurance against the value of their stocks because of the policy of destroying all fish stocks in an infected farm. That is not the case in other fish-producing countries such as Norway, so the Scottish product is already becoming less competitive.

It is vital that we do not simply accept a European directive that damages an enormously important Scottish industry. I ask for support in allowing time to digest the technical review, which, I hope, will provide less costly solutions for the Scottish fish processing industry. We are here to promote sustainable jobs in Scotland, not sheepishly to accept a European directive that will have precisely the opposite effect.