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

On Mr Smyth’s final question, I believe that the Prime Minister has promised to provide compensation. That compensation must be paid very quickly.

This morning, I spoke to a business that said that, if the problems that there have been in the past two weeks are repeated, it might not be in business next week. That story could be repeated many times. Fishing vessels are now landing their catch in Denmark in order to avoid the bureaucratic system. Prices in the cod fish sector have collapsed by 50 per cent or more, trade deals have been lost and customers have gone elsewhere. That is a truly dreadful situation.

I have been in regular contact with the UK Government through attendance at the EU exit operations—XO—committee meetings, which are chaired by Michael Gove. We have prepared extensively in every respect that we could, and in all ways that were required, in order to ensure that, in so far as it is within our power, the new system is capable of operating. In that respect, we set up three hubs, including one with DFDS, to streamline the system. We have ensured that environmental health officers are available, but it would not matter if there were another 1,000 certifying officers—that is not the problem.

The problem is the untried and untested system, which the UK Government said at the meeting that I was at yesterday is only now being tested. The paperwork and the IT systems are incompatible with each other, the customs documentation is defective, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs does not recognise that particular types of fishing stock exist, and there has been a complete failure to establish a good rapport, relationship and working operation with the French authorities. In all respects, it lies with the UK Government to sort out the Brexit boorach that it has created, and to do so without any further delay.