Seafood (Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th May 2022.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether, following the United Kingdom Government’s launch of a seafood exports fund, it will launch a Scottish seafood fund. (S6O-01103)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

We already have an established fund—the marine fund Scotland. In recognition of the lack of UK Government support following Brexit, we funded Seafood Scotland to the tune of £1.8 million in 2021-22 to enable it to carry out export support activity that is identical to what is now being proposed in the £1 million seafood exports pillar of the UK Government’s UK seafood fund.

It is entirely appropriate that the UK Government has, belatedly, taken responsibility for some of the costs of an imposed Brexit that has inflicted significant and lasting damage on Scottish seafood markets. The £1 million package that is being offered by the UK Government is a paltry amount compared to the real costs of Brexit. The UK Government must also take responsibility for those, as well as honouring its promise to replace lost European Union funding in full.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I thank the cabinet secretary for not directly answering my question. The success of seafood exports—and, indeed, food security, which the cabinet secretary said recently is as important as energy security— depends on our fishing industry’s ability to catch. The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has flagged that recent developments such as the expansion of floating offshore wind, marine generation and associated connections could have an impact on fishing grounds and the Scottish fleet. What steps are being taken to ensure that the future sustainability of our fishing industry in producing climate-smart food is not relegated to collateral damage in an increasingly crowded marine environment?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I am sorry that the member did not appear to listen to my response to his first question, which directly answered the question.

In relation to his second point, which was on a vital issue that I have discussed with the fishing industry, including with the SFF, I direct him to our blue economy vision, which sets out what we are looking to achieve for our marine sectors and industries in Scotland and our ambitions for the future. The vision clearly points to the importance of the fishing industry in Scotland. The industry produces a carbon-neutral and sustainable source of protein, which is important now and which will be important in the future.

On how we manage our marine resources in an increasingly cluttered space, there are a lot of competing interests that we need to take account of, but we are trying to manage our way through that as best we can, taking account of all the different interests.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

One million pounds to help exports hardly seems like fair compensation, given the utter havoc that the Tories’ hard Brexit has wrought on the fishing and seafood industries. They were completely ignored during the negotiations that brought about the trade and co-operation agreement, and it now seems likely that the Tories will, once again, throw our fishers and those in the seafood industry under the bus in a trade war with the EU.

Does the cabinet secretary share my view that, if that happens, it will put beyond any doubt the UK Government’s disinterest and the contempt that it has for Scotland’s seafood sector?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The funding that has been offered by the UK Government is little more than a sticking plaster when we compare it to the huge costs that have been incurred because of the new trade barriers and avoidable bureaucracy arising from the UK Government’s Brexit deal.

Ever since the 2016 referendum, successive UK Governments have completely mishandled relations with our closest allies and partners in the European Union. The interests of Scotland and its people have suffered grievously as a result of that, and no group has suffered more than the Scottish seafood sector.

I agree with the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, who said, earlier this week:

“Today’s announcement that the UK Government are now intending to legislate to enable unilateral action to disapply parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol is deeply concerning. Let us be very clear—to breach an international treaty, signed in good faith and hailed by the Prime Minister as a ‘fantastic’ moment, is bad enough. To contemplate this action when facing a cost-of-living crisis is unthinkable and indefensible.”