SNP MPs have condemned the UK government for the negative impact of Brexit on the Scottish fisheries sector, reports Tim Oliver.

In a Westminster debate last week, Alyn Smith, shadow SNP spokesman on Europe, told Alister Jack, secretary of state for Scotland, that Brexit had been a ‘demonstrable disaster’ for the Scottish fisheries sector and that catchers and processors were having ‘a dreadful time’.

Noting that the current trading arrangements are due to end in 2026 under the terms of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA), he asked the Scottish secretary what thought had been given to trading arrangements after 2026, ‘or will it be just another betrayal?’

Rejecting Alyn Smith’s claims, Alister Jack said the UK had taken back control of its waters and had left ‘the hated CFP’.

“We have seen our quota increase by 30,000t this year in negotiations,” he said. “We are going to take full control of our waters at the end of the five-year period, and with the other things we are putting in place to support industry, we will increase the processing business, as well.”

Supporting Alister Jack, Banff and Buchan Conservative MP David Duguid said the UK had secured additional fishing opportunities totalling about £750m in the recent end-of-year negotiations on top of the TCA agreement.

Both the SFF and Scottish government ministers and officials have said the UK has a stronger voice in the annual negotiations since leaving the EU, he said.

But Douglas Chapman, SNP spokesperson for small business, enterprise and innovation, said the government seemed ‘hell-bent on destroying the Scottish seafood sector’

He told Alister Jack: “Some £60m has been spent on additional Brexit paperwork alone, while export delays and exclusions undermine our export potential. What has happened to the Brexit ‘sea of opportunity’ that was promised – and does the minister accept the assessment of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association that Brexit has ‘failed to deliver any benefits’ of a coastal state?”

Alister Jack rejected this view, and said: “Certain sectors of the fishing industry have made much progress and seen many benefits. On the processing sector, we are looking at what the shortage occupation list could do to help the sector, and at further investment in the North East.

“I am confident that there is a sea of opportunity, which we will see over the five-year period, and that at the end of those five years, the fishing sector will not be jumping up and down saying: ‘Let’s get back into the Common Fisheries Policy’.”

Philippa Whitford, shadow SNP spokesperson for Scotland, said Brexit had had negative impacts throughout Scotland, and there were ‘simply no real Brexit opportunities or sunlit uplands’. It was no surprise that a poll last year showed that 69% of Scottish voters want to rejoin the EU, she said.

Alister Jack said one of the benefits of Brexit was that the UK can make its own trade deals, and that it had made 71 to date.

But SNP whip Marion Fellows said figures from HMRC showed that Scottish exports had ‘plummeted’ by £2.2bn over the two years since Brexit, which had cost Scotland’s economy around £4bn. “The consequences of Brexit have been invariably harmful,” she said.

Alister Jack pointed out that there had been Covid, lockdowns and the war in Ukraine in the two years following Brexit. He said that in the first two quarters of 2022, the UK did more trade with the EU than it did in any quarter when we were members of the EU.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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