Fishing and the Upcoming Election
05 June 2017
I'm not an expert, and my argument below may be simplistic. I may not have all my facts right. But this is how I see fishing in the context of Brexit.
Fishing is important to Scotland. The second biggest fishing port in the UK in terms of fish landings is Lerwick. More fish is landed in Lerwick than in the whole of Northern Ireland...
And Lerwick's just the 2nd biggest fishing port in Scotland, behind Peterhead.
Fishing is far more important to Scotland's economy than it is to the UK as a whole.
It's not just about huge trawlers fishing far out at sea though - all around Scotland folk with open boats make a living catching exotic things like razor clams and velvet crabs.
Fishing has a pretty simple business model - you need somewhere to catch fish, and you need somewhere to sell fish. Both aspects are equally important.
There's not much of a market for razor clams or velvet crabs in the UK though - they're pretty much entirely exported to Europe. They're difficult to export further afield as they need to be shipped live.
So without access to the EU market some fishermen just wouldn't have a business at all.
The Common Fisheries Policy has been a bit of a disaster for UK fishing communities. But the CFP is highly unusual within the EU - it's the only policy which takes a member state's resource and (to an extent) shares it around the other member states. This doesn't happen with other resources, like coal, oil, solar or wind energy potential nor any sectors of agriculture.
The CFP should be scrapped or completely reformed.
Most EU laws can be passed by a qualified majority, some can be blocked by a single EU country exercising its veto. In practice, lots of horse-trading goes on with countries looking to gain a benefit in one area in return for agreeing to pass laws in another. This gives countries lots of opportunities to pressure the EU to change things in their interest.
And yet, the UK government has never used this ability to properly reform the CFP. Why? Because fishing is not a priority to the UK.
In an independent Scotland fishing would be one of its top 3 priorities in terms of its dealing with the EU. Once Scotland was a member in her own right, it's inconceivable that reform of the CFP to prevent it disadvantaging Scotland's fishing communities wouldn't be the first thing on the Scottish government's mind when it's asked to agree new EU laws.
That's why I believe the fishing community should be voting for parties committed to Scottish independence in the EU.