Nicola Sturgeon warned over ‘turning back’ on fishing fleet

The First Minister has been warned over creating an EU deal for Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
The First Minister has been warned over creating an EU deal for Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Nicola Sturgeon is being warned against “turning her back” on Scotland’s fishing communities by seeking to halt Brexit north of the Border.

The fishing industry has been celebrating the outcome of the referendum as skippers believe it means policy can be set at home and spell the end to Spanish and French trawlers taking advantage of Scotland’s vast fishing waters.

This could be scuppered if the SNP government secures a deal to keep Scotland in the EU which Ms Sturgeon is seeking to do after Scots voted by 62 per cent to 38 per cent in favour of remaining in Europe.

The concerns were spelled out by fishing leaders as they held crunch talks with rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing yesterday.

Speaking beforehand, Mike Park of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association said the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has been an “abject disaster” for the Scottish fleet. “You just have to look at the communities to see the result of that disaster,” he added.

“It would be kind of rich, I think, if the First Minister, if Scotland turned its back on its fishing community just like Heath did.”

Tory prime minister Ted Heath took the UK into the then European Economic Community in 1973. Mr Park warned the forthcoming Landings Obligation could effectively “shut down” the Scottish fleet.

Mr Ewing pledged to work to get the “best deal” for Scotland’s fishermen despite their concerns.

He said: “We’re doing our day job, we’re getting on with representing Scotland’s fishermen, now and in the big picture of what may happen later. Of course there is the fishing fleet where I understand that there is substantial support for Leave, and we must understand their viewpoint.

“But also part of the fishing sector is the onshore sector, the processing sector, where many of the workforce are not originally from Scotland, and I believe nearly £500 million of fish is exported to the EU.”

Mr Ewing also pledged action to protect the £724.3 million of food and drink exports to other parts of Europe, making the continent the largest destination for produce from this sector.

He said: “Scotland’s food and drink industry is one of our economic success stories and our quality produce is known and loved at home and abroad. Our place in the European Union has been key to that success and we must protect it.

“Workers from around Europe are employed in many of our food and drink businesses and I want to reassure them that we value and welcome the role they play in our country – both economically and in terms of civic vibrancy.

“It is clear that European workers and exports are crucial to the food and drink industry and to our economy.”