Managing Scotland’s Fisheries

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 14th January 2021.

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Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of his statement. Despite his claims that he and his Government will do all that they can to defend the devolved fisheries powers, the simple truth is that he and the Scottish National Party would hand those powers back to Brussels and have Scotland’s fishermen back in the common fisheries policy just as soon as they could.

It is clear that the sector has faced considerable problems in recent days, compounding some of the border issues related to the coronavirus from before Christmas, with a number of boats opting to stay in port because of uncertainty as to whether their catch could be exported in time. There have been a range of issues, and customs declarations and information technology issues have played a part.

I turn to an area that is within the Scottish Government’s competence. We have heard about delays in granting export certificates at the Larkhall seafood hub. On 19 August, the cabinet secretary said the Government would be

“as prepared as we can be for the end of the transition period.”—[

Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee

, 19 August 2020; c 2.]

Does he now admit that that was not the case and that the Scottish Government was not as prepared as it should have been? I hope that he will give a personal commitment to work with Food Standards Scotland to address the problems. Will he commit to a date by which his officials will iron out those problems?

It is increasingly apparent that short-term support for businesses that have been impacted by losses will be vital. Will the cabinet secretary put aside party politics, recognise the need for support—backed by both Governments—and work with his counterparts in the UK Government to ensure that that essential support gets to our fishing industry as quickly as possible?