Managing Scotland’s Fisheries

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

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Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

First, it would be churlish of me not to welcome Mr Halcro Johnston to his new responsibilities.

We have already been working with all parties, including Food Standards Scotland, around the clock to do our best to ameliorate the problems that have arisen. Scotland Food & Drink and others representing all the major sectors of the industry sought a grace period of six months in which any teething problems could be ironed out and the new, untried and untested systems—involving an extra 150,000 environmental health certificates every year—could be worked through and difficulties sorted out. That request did not even get a response when it was made on 4 November by Scotland Food & Drink to the Prime Minister. In a subsequent meeting with junior ministers, the request was dismissed out of hand.

As far as the Tories are concerned, I notice that Mr Halcro Johnston does not say whether he thinks that the deal is a good one and whether it offers “unparalleled” opportunities—the term used by the Prime Minister just yesterday—or whether he agrees with the fishing representatives that it is a betrayal and a dreadful deal that has utterly broken the promises made to the Scottish fishing industry.

I have been working with the UK Government for the past five years. I have suggested a grace period and various other things. The UK Government has rejected all those suggestions. The situation in which we now find ourselves is entirely a result of Brexit and the lack of preparation by the UK Government for the bureaucratic system in which the seafood sector now finds itself enmeshed.