The next item of business is consideration of business motion S2M-1126, in the name of Patricia Ferguson, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, setting out a business programme. I ask any member who wishes to speak against the motion to press their request-to-speak button. I call Patricia Ferguson to move the motion.
That the Parliament agrees the following programme of business— Wednesday 21 April 2004
2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by European and External Relations Committee Debate on Enlargement of the European Union followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions
5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 22 April 2004
2.00 pm Question Time -
Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport; Finance and Public Services and Communities; General Questions
3.00 pm Executive Debate on Developing Scotland's Renewable Energy followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions
5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Wednesday 28 April 2004
2.30 pm Time for Reflection followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions followed by Stage 3 of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill followed by Business Motion followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions
5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business Thursday 29 April 2004
9.30 am Scottish National Party Business
2.00 pm Question Time -
Environment and Rural Development; Health and Community Care; General Questions
3.00 pm Executive Business followed by Parliamentary Bureau Motions
5.00 pm Decision Time followed by Members' Business—[Patricia Ferguson.]
I oppose the business motion because it makes no provision for the Executive to make a statement on the continuing negotiations with the European Commission on changes to December's fishing deal. The Parliament rises for the Easter recess tomorrow, and we have been promised time and again by ministers that those changes were about to be announced.
"confident that these discussions with the Commission can be concluded successfully and, importantly, without undue delay in order that Scottish fishermen can effectively plan ahead."
Two months on, we are no further forward. The Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development told the Environment and Rural Development Committee on 3 March that he expected
"proposals ... to be produced shortly."—[Official Report, Environment and Rural Development Committee, 3 March 2004; c 827.]
That was almost a month ago, and we have heard nothing since. Only last week, Allan Wilson met fishing industry representatives in Edinburgh and told them that he expected to make the announcement on the changes by the end of last week or, at the latest, by the beginning of this week. However, we have not heard a single thing from the ministers.
The SNP welcomes the fact that the Government has moved from saying that we should be congratulating ministers on the deal that they signed in December to admitting that the deal has to be renegotiated to give our fishing communities a future. The restrictions on where the fleet can catch its quotas have affected the white-fish fleet in particular. If the fleet wants to fish for cod, it has to dump haddock stocks, which are at a record level in the North sea and for which we have quota. If it wants to catch its haddock quota, it has to dump cod stocks—which the regime that was foisted on Scotland in December
We have to scrap the draconian permit system that remains in place. I remind Parliament that the issue does not affect only the white-fish fleet; it also affects the prawn fleet from Fife and other parts of Scotland, the onshore sector and the fish processors, and the scores of harbour businesses in all the ports around Scotland.
As we speak, the white-fish fleet is fishing in the North sea. If the changes are not announced during the next 48 hours, those boats will face two choices: they will either have to dump at sea fish from stocks that are at record levels in some cases and for which we are supposed to have a quota; or they will have to bring the fish back and land them illegally. Surely the minister does not want that. The fact that the delay has been so long appears to show that the minister is not fighting hard enough to save the white-fish fleet in Scotland.
There are thousands of jobs at stake—the white-fish fleet is currently hanging by a thread. The fishermen are desperate for announcements to be made and I understand that, if the announcements are made, the Executive might have to go formally to the April fisheries council, which is another month away. It is therefore imperative that, before close of play tomorrow and before Parliament rises for Easter recess, the Executive find an opportunity to explain to Parliament what will happen in the meantime, before the formal proposals go to Brussels in April. The Executive must explain what changes it expects will be made and what it is doing to ensure that the changes will save the future of our fishing communities and the fishing fleet.
I urge Parliament, all political parties and ministers to support amending the business motion so that we can discuss this vital matter tomorrow before it is too late and Parliament goes into recess.
The issue has been discussed in the Parliamentary Bureau for the past two weeks. On each occasion, I have provided all the information that I could to the parties assembled there. I am sorry that that information appears not to have been relayed to Mr Lochhead.
Division number 1
For: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Fox, Colin, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kane, Rosie, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Leckie, Carolyn, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Abstentions: Baird, Shiona, Ballard, Mark, Harper, Robin, MacDonald, Margo, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Turner, Dr Jean