Conservatives and SNP Face Off Over Fishing

Yesterday a war of words erupted between Scots Conservative leader and the SNP when Miss Davidson visited Peterhead harbour.

A leaked letter from the SFF was seized upon by the SNP, who suggested that the Secretary of State for DEFRA stating that the UK would abide by one of the terms of international law under UNCLOS 3 by “continuing to co-operate on management over shared stocks” was an indication that the Tories would betray fishing for a second time as they did under Edward Heath in 1973.

In return Miss Davidson blasted that the SNP position to rejoin the EU, if the break up of Britain was achieved, which would betray Scots fishermen as an independent Scotland would have to re-accede to the entire Acquis Communitaire (all EU law) as any accession state must do.

As this would include the Common Fisheries Policy the industry in Scotland would be asset stripped for a second time under the provisions of relative stability share outs under the CFP.

Among all this the SFF used the SNP to get at the Conservatives, the Conservatives used the SFF to get back at the SNP and the SFF congratulated the Conservatives on some loose wording…..

Among all this political PR grandstanding and manipulation by all parties involved in this war of words the critical things  have been overlooked that none of those involved has made a clear commitment on fisheries among the word slinging.

The SNPs position is entirely hypocritical given that re-joining the EU can lead to nothing else but a sell out of fishing upon accession.

It either belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how the EU works or complete duplicity on the truth of the situation.  It is very well to decry the shameful sell outs of fishing by previous Conservative administrations yet advocate policy that will cause the exact same situation.

The SNPs adoption of the idea of being “in Europe but not run by Europe” is a reiteration of the political establishments mealy words on the EU.  The only way for the SNP, or any other party, to safeguard the nations fishing interests is to be totally free of the EU not pool fisheries resources to supranational control.

The Conservatives decrying the SNP eclipses that despite repeated pronouncements from the Conservatives about taking back control of our waters and leaving the CFP the imprecise rhetoric is unbinding and the prefatory actions do not match the rhetoric.

The government has not initiated scraping the London Fisheries Convention 1964 which will now result in an overlap on access whereby EU vessels will be able to continue to fish between 6 and 12 miles from UK shores.

There is a difference between leaving the CFP and scrapping it – one can leave a policy but run a concurrent, shadow variation as is proposed by the Great “Repeal” Bill which will adopt all EU laws, including the entire CFP, onto the UK statute book.   This will create continuity of rights providing the EU recourse under the Vienna Convention on treaties to fight for the status quo.

If the Conservatives mean to leave the CFP why re-adopt it, if you mean to scrap it immediately why run the risk of adoption??

Consequently, among this war of words there has been no extraction of a firm wording that provides a definitive commitment to re-establish unequivocal national control of fisheries resources in an entirely independent British (or Scottish) policy.

“Co-operating on shared stocks” is a basic tenant of international co-operation on fisheries management – the crucial bit is what that co-operation involves and how a nation chooses to manage its waters and resources.

Although much of the superficial language being used is initially reassuring when one scrapes deeper into the political actions there is a multitude of critical issues where the lack of detail or comprehension is alarming – the lack of understanding or acknowledgement by all parties involved yesterday is even more alarming.

Fishing is teetering along a knife edge the results of which depend on what the words used so far firm into.

We hope that the Conservatives now take the opportunity in the next few weeks to truly and unequivocally commit to repatriating all sovereignty, control and access over the entire UK EEZ and all resources within.

To operate under international law and to implement entirely bespoke UK policy for the benefit of this nation that will end the shameful policy of discarding and one which will benefit all fishermen to rebuild our coastal communities.

Anything less squanders the opportunity of repatriating one of our nations greatest renewable resources that could, given sustainable management, provide over £6.3bn every year to coastal communities and could be a triumphant beacon for the Conservatives to prove that Brexit really does mean Brexit!