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OPINION: Brexit deal is a bad one for Scottish fishing fleet, writes Highland MSP Fergus Ewing

By Contributor

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MSP Fergus Ewing.
MSP Fergus Ewing.

We may have a Brexit deal but as we always feared, the deal is a very bad one for Scotland.

On paper there appears to be an increase in fishing quotas, but in practice there will be reductions in actual catching levels of the fish species which are mostly caught by Scottish fishermen – haddock, cod, whiting, hake and saithe.

This is because the system provides allocated quota but, in addition to that, many family businesses rely on buying in quota through leasing.

This will now be far more expensive to do.

Fishing trawler.
Fishing trawler.

In addition, swapping quota with EU owners now also becomes illegal.

That and the loss of The Hague Preference which protected Scottish fishing interests has been given up too.

The so-called five-year agreement to which all this is tied has a number of stings in the tail.

If, after the five years is up, the UK government wants to change the deal it has made, it will have to be prepared to give up something linked to trade.

That could, for example, see it having to accept tariffs on seafood or salmon exports that are going to the EU.

So, fishing is linked to trade.

That is something we were assured by the Conservatives would never happen.

Fishermen on the west coast were, like the Scottish Government, opposed to Brexit and their fears and concerns about the process now appear to have been borne out.

We will face the loss of key markets, and any reduction in the amount of white fish we can catch will also more widely affect our fish markets, harbours and processors.

That puts lots of livelihoods at risk in coastal communities.

The £100 million promised investment is scant consolation – and it is doubtful that we will get a fair share for Scotland anyway.

Based on our share of UK waters and fish stocks, we should be getting £62 million in future funding support – the UK government gave us a paltry £14 million for the coming year.

However the UK government try to dress things up, they have decided that Scotland’s fishing interests are expendable once again.

They sold us out on the way into Europe and have now sold Scottish fishing out on the way out as well.

The Scottish Government will now do the best we can to promote and protect our interests as we move forward into an uncertain future.

Fergus Ewing is SNP MSP for Inverness and Nairn and the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy

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