North-east Fife Fishing Industry (Financial Aid)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 12th June 2003.

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Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative 2:30 pm, 12th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what intermediate and long-term financial aid it plans to make available to assist with the current situation in the fishing industry in north-east Fife. (S2O-152)

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Ross Finnie announced a £50 million restructuring support package for the industry earlier in the year. That is in addition to funding available under the 2000-2006 financial instrument for fisheries guidance programme.

More generally, the enterprise network has in place a range of initiatives to stimulate business growth and more employment. With Fife Council, Scottish Enterprise Fife has commissioned a survey of local companies to assess the economic impact of recent changes to European Union fishing regulations. That report will form the basis of a co-ordinated response from the council and the local enterprise company to the difficulties facing local industry.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

Is the minister aware that the fishing community of Pittenweem is particularly disadvantaged, even compared with the other fishing communities round the coast of Scotland? We opened a new fish market a decade or so ago; it has no fish to sell. We have an ice factory that operates on a care and maintenance basis. The number of fishing boats has dropped by something like 70 per cent over the past 25 years. Is he able to say anything to the prawn fishers of Pittenweem and places round the rest of the coast to assure them that, when the vaunted aid package finally arrives, it will go not only to the white-fish fishermen, but to the nephrops fishermen?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

There are a lot of issues in that question. I undertake to develop some of them with Mr Brocklebank in the fullness of time, as we are doing with the constituency member, Iain Smith. I understand the frustration that exists about the delay in aid payments, but the Executive cannot act without European Union state aid approval. I understand that the European Commission has just approved our decommissioning proposals. However, we await the formal decision, and we need to ensure that that decision has been taken before we can take forward work on the transitional aid programme. I undertake to work with members along those lines.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

The minister will be aware that I have, on a number of occasions, raised the problems that face the nephrops fishermen of Pittenweem and north-east Fife because of the impact of the white-fish regulations on the prawn catch. The price of prawns has fallen significantly and the income to the industry has fallen by more than 40 per cent this year to date. Will the minister assure me that he will consider different ways of providing support to the industry in north-east Fife, including support for research on and development of alternative fisheries, for example, the sprat fishery in the Firth of Forth? Will he also ensure that the Executive considers other sources—for example, the Scottish Co-operative Development Agency—to assist the fishing co-operative in Pittenweem?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I would put the drop in the price of prawns down to oversupply in the market, poor European markets and, possibly, a very good prawn catch in the Western Isles. I undertake to work with Iain Smith along those lines to ensure that appropriate research opportunities that might help to spread the pain, so to speak, are entered into.