Uncertainty or Opportunity for Scotland’s Fishing Industry ?

brexit-imageThe UK Government has still not  shared the full draft of its White Paper on EU Negotiations to the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

Concern is growing within both the Welsh and Scottish Governments at the lack of engagement by the UK Government as Brexit date, March 29th 2019, approaches with no deal yet secured with the EU.


” The Fisheries Bill, announced in the Queen’s speech last year, will deliver a significant change to the way fisheries are managed in the UK. “

On the 4th of July the UK Government’s Sustainable fisheries for future generations: consultation document was published with no input from the Scottish Government despite Fishing being a devolved matter and it being an extremely important industry to Scotland.

The document states:

“As an independent coastal state for the first time in over 40 years, access to UK waters will be on our terms, under our control and for the benefit of UK fishermen. Today we are setting out our plans to promote a more competitive, profitable and sustainable fishing industry across the whole of the UK, and setting a gold standard for sustainable fishing around the world.”

The Fishing Industry will still be subject to UNCLOS  – United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea –  the UK cannot just do what it wants. 

The Fisheries White Paper also goes on to state that access to the UK waters – which are mainly in Scotland – will be negotiated from 2020 and up till then the fishing industry will still be complying with the EU’s CFP (Common Fisheries Policy).

“The Fisheries Bill proposes taking powers that will enable this retained EU law to be amended expeditiously by secondary legislation. The marine environment is dynamic and timely decisions are required.”

“These powers will allow us to make rapid legislative and policy adjustment where this is appropriate, including in cases where measures are currently introduced by the European Commission through Delegated Acts.”

The White Paper states that a body is to be set up to produce a UK Fisheries policy where Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be consulted. England will be represented by the UK delegates as it does not have a devolved administration. The final decision if there is a disagreement will rest with the UK representative. This means that if any or all of the devolved administrations object they can be overruled by the leader of the UK delegation.

Here is a reminder of UK waters divided up into the different nations.

map of international boundaries

Map of international boundaries by Andmoreagain0815

The Common UK Frameworks for fisheries will be “based on established conventions and practices, including the competence of the devolved institutions” however, they “will not normally be adjusted without their consent”. This wording means that they can be adjusted without consent.

You can find more information on the consultation and its related documents here.

Despite the UK Government not sharing its draft White Paper on Leaving the UK and with the concern that the Scottish Government was not consulted on the Fisheries White Paper – Michael Russell, Constitutional Relations Secretary in the Scottish Government, – has sent in a contribution anyway. Contribution to the UK Government’s white paper on the EU

Michael Russell said:

Michael Russell  Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe

Photo Scot Gov

“Brexit is only a matter of months away, but we still have not seen the UK Government position on key issues such as customs arrangements, emerging options for negotiation positions or the full draft White Paper.

“That is why, in the absence of detailed and meaningful discussion with the UK Government, we now feel compelled to publish our own realistic and workable proposals for our future relationship with the European Union. This reiterates and builds on the consistent, detailed and evidence-based positions put forward by the Scottish Government since the EU referendum in 2016.

“We continue to make the case for continued membership of the European Single Market and the Customs Union as a compromise that respects the democratic decision of both Scotland and other parts of the UK. While that respect has yet to be reciprocated, we continue to work in a constructive spirit in sharing this publication with the UK Government – and in that spirit I hope the Prime Minister will place it on the table as a contribution when the UK Cabinet meet.”

The Scottish Government’s contribution reflects their frustration with the lack of UK Government engagement with the devolved administrations and the impact this will have.

It  states:

“As a devolved government our ability to make the necessary preparations for Brexit is significantly hindered by a lack of information on the approach the UK Government wishes to take both in areas of devolved competence and in those areas that are major influences on devolved competences for example the position of EU nationals, customs and regulatory alignment).”

“A continuing close relationship with the European Union is what the people of Scotland voted for in June 2016. None the less, the Scottish Government has constantly sought to offer compromise proposals which, whilst respecting Scotland’s democratic decision, also fully respect the democratic choices made elsewhere in the UK.”

On Fishing the Scottish Government’s paper states:

  1. The baseline position in UK-EU negotiations must, therefore be no fixed levels of access for EU vessels to the Scottish zone, with access forming part of annual coastal state quota negotiations.
  2. Preventing permanent, unpaid for access for EU fleets to the Scottish zone is crucial to Scottish fisheries interests.
  3. We also urgently want to see UK Government proposals to replace the vital contribution that European Maritime and Fisheries Fund monies have made to the sustainable growth and success of marine industries in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly passed a Continuity Bill (opposed only by the Tories) where the powers currently devolved to Scotland would be retained on Brexit.  This is being challenged by the UK Government in the Supreme Court. The hearing is due to be held on the 24th of July .

Brexit result

By Mirrorme22 Nilfanion: English and Scottish council areas TUBS: Welsh council areas Sting: Gibraltar via Wikimedia Commons

Every constituency in Scotland voted to Remain in the EU in the referendum.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


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