November 19, 2003



Scotland Welcomes Britain & Northern Ireland's Withdrawal From Common Fisheries Policy

An official attempt to withdraw Britain and Northern Ireland from the Common Fisheries Policy was welcomed by industry groups across Scotland yesterday night.

A Private Members Bill carrying cross-party support which was launched by the Scottish National Party's (SNP) Westminster leader Alex Salmond seeks to have the effect of asserting UK control over Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters.

The Banff and Buchan MP's Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill was supported by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and the Ulster Unionist Party and Plaid Cymru, as well as many fishing organisations representing both onshore and offshore sectors.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Salmond said the Bill was one of only a handful in recent years which carried the support of MPs from every political group in the House of Commons - such was the upsurge in anger and frustration at the "disastrous" impact of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

He added: "We cannot make this Bill into law without Government support, but we can guarantee that it comes to a vote in the House of Commons and we have every expectation of winning that vote and demonstrating the political strength behind this initiative.

"Thus, this cross-party Bill can have enormous significance in making it clear to the European Commission that MPs from fishing communities have had enough of the CFP.

"And this should greatly strengthen the hand of fisheries ministers in securing a survival package at the upcoming December European Council meeting."

The Bill was backed yesterday by UK fishing organisations.

Tom Hay, from the Fishermen's Association Limited, said that national control was the only way the UK fishing industry could be salvaged from extinction.

"Alex Salmond's Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill deserves unqualified support from parliamentarians and the general public," he said.

John Hermse, of the Scottish Fishing Services Association, described the Bill as a "significant initiative".

He said: "The degradation of the industry in the cause of political bartering cannot be allowed to continue as we are dangerously close to the total collapse of all sectors of the industry and the knock-on effects to the rural communities that have been reliant on fishing for centuries," he said.

Mr Salmond's Bill came after Scottish fisheries minister Ross Finnie warned his European counterparts yesterday against "draconian" methods of rebuilding fish stocks.

Scientists for a total ban on catching cod will face the EU fisheries council in Brussels next month with crunch decisions over calls.

The council's decision will follow recommendations last month from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which said a total ban on catching North Sea cod was needed until stocks had recovered.

ICES scientists have estimated that stocks are down to 52,000 tons and want a total ban until the number has climbed up to 70,000 tons, followed by a "rebuilding" plan to reach a recommended minimum of 150,000 tons.

Alex Smith, of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, which has put forward its own fishing recovery plan based on specified catching and no-fishing zones, said that the nearer fisheries management was to the fishing industry, the better.

"For too long fishermen have shuffled around corridors in Brussels while their fate was being decided behind closed doors," he said.

"Mr Salmond's Bill will bring fishing home - where it belongs."

Carol MacDonald, of the North East Scotland pressure group the Cod Crusaders, added: "We commend Mr Salmond and the SNP for taking this brave initiative in safeguarding our communities' way of life, and we only wish that other political parties will follow suit and listen to what their electorate want and need - national control of our own seas for an economical, viable and sustainable future."

Robert Milne, of the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation, today welcomed the intervention of an all-party group.

He said: "In the short term, this action should assist our members in their December negotiations. In the longer term, it could ensure a more secure future for our industry."

Mr Salmond's Bill was also backed by all parties from the MPs.

Orkney and Shetland Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said that the fishing industry's patience with the CFP had clearly been exhausted.

"One does not have to be a genius to see why," he said.

"We must be careful, however, not to exchange one set of bureaucrats who do not understand the industry for another."

"Abolishing the Common Fisheries Policy is only the first step. We must replace it with a system that puts fishermen themselves at the heart of fisheries management."