European Negotiations (Aquaculture)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

6. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding its European Union negotiations on aquaculture. (S5O-04249)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We have not had specific discussions on aquaculture with the UK Government, but we are concerned about the approach that it is taking in respect of tariffs thereanent.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

Aquaculture is hugely important to small rural communities. The cabinet secretary may be aware that 23 per cent of UK farmed salmon and 75 per cent of Scottish farmed mussels are produced in Shetland. Does the cabinet secretary share my concerns that the industry could be hit with a sea of red tape as a consequence of leaving the European Union? Can he set out what plans there are for additional resources to help producers to continue to export when the transition period comes to an end?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I broadly share those concerns. I know from a recent visit to Shetland just how important the aquaculture sector is to the Shetlands.

The sector sustains around 12,000 jobs in Scotland and it increasingly operates in accordance with the sustainable standards that we all support. That is a task that we are committed to and on which lots of work is being done. For example, I made an announcement today in response to a question from Mr Gibson about the regulation of wrasse and a consultation thereanent. Those matters are very important and I am pleased that the member has raised them in the chamber.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary alluded to the vile remarks of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, who claimed that migrant workers, including those who work in the fish processing industry in my constituency, come here only for benefits and to access the national health service. Does he agree that that confirms why we need immigration policy to be devolved at the earliest opportunity?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree entirely. Such remarks fail to recognise the very valuable contribution that non-UK workers make to Scotland. Each EU citizen adds, on average, an estimated £34,000 to Scottish gross domestic product annually. The expert advisory group on migration and population has also confirmed that

“EU migrants typically contribute more through tax revenues than they consume by way of public services.”

However, it is not the monetary contribution that is so important; it is the human contribution. They come to Scotland; they choose to do so and they choose to work hard here. Is that not a good thing for a human being to do, rather than something that should be treated with such contempt by the UK Government?