Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th June 2007.
On 31 December 2006, there were 706 Scottish fishing vessels of more than 10m in length. The comparable figure for 1993 was 1,333.
If what I hear is true, the minister is considering taking Scottish Fishermen's Federation representatives to the next agriculture and fisheries council in Europe. I wonder why—I am sure that it is not because the minister lacks confidence. I am sure that they will be brilliant negotiators—albeit with a vested interest—but you are the minister, so what are you going to do to arrest or slow down the serious decline in the number of Scottish fishing vessels and fishermen and in our fishing communities?
The first thing that I have done to arrest the rapid decline in the number of fishing vessels in Scotland is to campaign for a Scottish National Party Government which, thankfully, was elected on 3 May.
The SNP Government intends to work closely with Scotland's fishing communities and fishing organisations on the agriculture and fisheries council next week and in the run-up to the big council in December. We are looking for new ways in which we can have a good relationship in the run-up to those talks to ensure that we have the best advice available in order to secure the best possible deal for Scotland at those important negotiations.
I welcome the minister to his position. As a representative of a fishing constituency, like him, I will support him where he can achieve substantial progress on behalf of the fishing interests that I want to represent properly in the Parliament.
I think that the minister described his meeting with Mr Bradshaw as cordial. Does he accept that that relationship is fundamental? Has he been able to build on the relationship that Ross Finnie, his predecessor, had with Mr Bradshaw, under which Mr Finnie was able to lead on behalf of the Scottish Executive in bilateral meetings at the agriculture and fisheries council? Will he tell us
The SNP Government intends to have a cordial and constructive relationship with the United Kingdom Government to help us to secure the best deal for Scotland's fishing communities in UK and European negotiations. We certainly hope to build on that relationship. I was delighted to receive the invitation from the UK minister to visit him in London yesterday as a precursor to next week's agriculture and fisheries council. That invitation was rarely extended to my predecessor, so we are clearly building on that successful relationship.