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European Commission (Agriculture and Rural Development)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th January 2016.

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Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government when it will next meet the agricultural and rural development department of the European Commission. (S4O-05216)

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is in regular contact with the European Commission’s directorate general for agriculture and rural development on a wide range of issues. Indeed, I met it last month to discuss the impact of the Commission’s greening measures on Scottish agriculture.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

I understand that the cabinet secretary met with his counterparts ahead of the discard ban, which prevents dead fish from being thrown back into the sea. Can he provide an update on any discussions he has had with the agricultural and rural development department of the European Commission about the discard ban and the possible delivery of increased fishing quotas?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Gil Paterson highlights the fact that new discard bans will come into force in Scotland’s waters in 2016. They will relate to the discarding of good-quality dead fish by throwing them overboard, which is a complete waste. For the first year, the ban will affect the demersal sector—the whitefish and shellfish sector—in Scotland.

The issue featured as part of the annual fisheries negotiations a few weeks ago, with regard to 2016 fishing opportunities. I recall that, a few years ago, I said to the European Commission that, for the discard bans to work, there has to be a reward for the fishermen to make it practically possible for them to fish all their quotas and that there must be an increase in their quotas to reflect the fact that there were discard bans in place. I am, therefore, pleased that that was part of the outcome of last month’s negotiations. For example, we managed to secure the proposed 30 per cent increase in North Sea haddock, and that was topped up by a further 17 per cent increase in quota to account for the discard bans. It is good that we are seeing a rise in fish quotas to take account of the fact that we now have discard bans in place in Scottish waters.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

Can the cabinet secretary give us a brief update on the greening discussions and say whether there were any positive outcomes for us in Scotland?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I regret that, in my conversations with the European Commission about greening measures, we made little headway in persuading the European Commission to accept our equivalence schemes or to allow us to escape the straitjacket of the three-crop rule, which is affecting Scotland’s arable sector because it is inappropriate for Scotland. The European Commission attached conditions to the equivalence measures that have made them unattractive to Scottish farmers. Therefore, we have no option but to seek further changes later this year. We welcome the fact that the European Commission has agreed to review the greening measures in the common agricultural policy, and we will take full advantage of that opportunity to get them changed in Scotland’s favour.