Brian Monteith: We must reclaim UK waters for mistreated fishermen

A boat carrying supporters for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum including Irish singer Bob Geldof (C) shout and wave at fishing boats supporting a 'leave' vote as they sail on the river Thames. Picture: Niklas Halle/AFP/Getty Images
A boat carrying supporters for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum including Irish singer Bob Geldof (C) shout and wave at fishing boats supporting a 'leave' vote as they sail on the river Thames. Picture: Niklas Halle/AFP/Getty Images
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IT used to be the case that hard-working people protested against the establishment, now in this modern era it is the establishment that protests against the working people. The world of British politics, nay, European politics, has become a surreal dystopian dream – and we need to waken up out of it.

I write of course about the bizarre scenes on the River Thames this week when a flotilla of British fishing boats from Fraserburgh to Falmouth sailed up the Thames to protest about the devastating effect the European Union has had on our fishing fleet. They were met by millionaire Bob Geldoff on a floating gin palace who proceeded to shout obscenities at the fishermen and give them the vickies.

Why? All because the fishermen had taken some politicians, including UKIP leader Nigel Farage, on their lead boat. Ignoring the Labour MP Kate Hoey, Geldoff tried to drown out the fishermen who were raising their genuine concerns, with abuse and invective.

It was an example of so much that has been wrong with the campaign to keep us in the EU, with the vested interest of bankers, politicians, economists and professional glad-handing lobbyists all trying to drown out the voices of ordinary people.

Fuel is not cheap and the fishing boats are very thirsty, especially the bigger trawlers, so it cost most boats over a thousand pounds, some much more to make the journey. It was at their own considerable expense that the fishermen on their boats set sail and gathered at the mouth of the Thames.

Many fishermen have lost their jobs and whole communities have been turned into ghost towns. Practically all of our once-bustling fish markets have closed down like the one in once-prosperous Eyemouth. One Dutch trawler has a quota for 25 per cent of all English fish – and lands it in the Netherlands.

So appalled were some of the “remainiacs” with Geldoff’s behaviour that they mutinied and got off his unpleasant pleasure cruiser at the first opportunity.

Our fishermen were sacrificed by prime minister Ted Heath back in 1973, who agreed that allowing their industry to die was a price to be paid for entering the Common Market. Now, with the largest fish stocks of 60 per cent in the EU we only are allowed to fish 13 per cent of that catch. We now import fish from far and wide from others who catch it for us – not because we cannot fish or our costs are too expensive, but because the EU quotas limit what our boats can do and give an unfair share in catches to other nations that have their own seas. The extra cost to every family in dearer fish and seafood is nearly £200 a year.

The EU has meanwhile given huge grants to scrap British fishing boats while giving even bigger grants to build new bigger boats for the Spanish and Portugese fleets. No wonder whole communities are angry and embittered. No wonder people don’t trust politicians.

Our fishermen have been waiting forty-three years to reverse the injustice that was served upon them. Next Thursday we all have the opportunity to put it right for them as well as ourselves.

Scaremonger of the week

There are two awards in the column today, the first for Scaremonger of the Week is a no brainer – it goes to Nicola Sturgeon for her descent into project fear by insisting that there will be a new right-wing Tory government that will abolish workers’ rights.

Funny how statutory holiday and sick pay, maternity pay, maternity leave, and a whole host of other workers’ rights were not only brought in before we joined the EU – some rights existed eighty years ago – but have survived successive Tory governments that had large enough majorities to do anything they wanted. Goodness, it was Tories that brought in the Factory Acts in the Victorian age.

Scaremonger of the campaign

The second award, for Scaremonger of the Campaign, goes to George Osborne. David Cameron has run him close, but for sheer consistency and willingness to distort the truth for his own ends it has to be Osborne.

His latest suggestion that he will need an austerity budget is just plain bonkers because the policies we would need are the reverse. If his dire predictions (that are always wrong) were true we would need to expand the economy, not contract it.

More importantly he will not be in a position to propose his blackmailer’s budget. When people vote to leave the EU next week they will be saying cheerio to the smug Mr Osborne. For the worst Chancellor in living memory, who has doubled the public debt, will be forced to resign and it will be a blessing to all of us – no matter how we voted.

Suspended sentence sends firm message to football hooligans

The suspended sentence handed out to the Russian football team by UEFA – after a Russian mob ambushed English fans – was a salutary lesson to the SFA about how to deal with issues of violence connected with football.

We keep hearing about Zero Tolerance when it comes to acts of violence, but the SFA seems to have forgotten how to act and set an example. It would of course appear unfair to give the Hibs team and its mainly well-behaved support a suspended sentence for the scenes that followed their great Cup victory at Hampden when the pitch was invaded. But that’s the point of making a sentence “suspended”. It sends out a message that in future any transgression will deliver an unfortunate consequence.

If all Scottish supporters knew that the next pitch invasion could mean being thrown out of a tournament or playing away behind closed doors then I doubt we would see its likes again.