WESTMINSTER SNUBS SCOTLAND IN KEY FISHERIES TALKS

WESTMINSTER SNUBS SCOTLAND IN KEY FISHERIES TALKS

SMITH COMMISSION IGNORED AHEAD OF EU MEETING

Scotland has been stopped from having a direct voice at the top table in key EU Fisheries talks tomorrow despite the Smith Commission pledge that Scotland should lead when it has the “predominant policy interest”, and despite the UK Minister for the Marine Environment, George Eustice, being unable to attend.

The SNP’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead had demanded Scotland lead for the UK in the crucial talks at the European Union’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council. However in a letter to Mr Lochhead the UK Government have now confirmed that instead an unelected Tory peer with no involvement with Fisheries – Lord Rupert Ponsonby de Mauley – will lead for the UK.

The Council is due to consider the Baltic Multiannual Plan which is critical for Scotland’s future fishing interests. It is likely to establish legal and technical precedents which may carry over into the related North Sea Multiannual Plan which, in turn, will underpin the long-term management of a number of North Sea key stocks in which Scotland has the dominant interest.

The move breaches the terms of the Smith Commission agreement which states a presumption that: “a devolved administration Minister can speak on behalf of the UK at a meeting of the Council of Ministers according to an agreed UK negotiating line where the devolved administration Minister holds the predominant policy interest across the UK and where the relevant lead UK Government Minister is unable to attend all or part of a meeting.”

In 2010, following pressure from the then First Minister, the Prime Minister agreed to overrule a decision that would have seen Scotland’s fisheries interests represented by a junior farming minister.

Mr Lochhead said:

“ This is a massive Tory snub to Scotland.

“ It is disgraceful that the interests of our fishing fleet are being represented by an unelected Tory peer who has no involvement with the industry, especially as its clear Lord Rupert Ponsonby de Mauley has been drafted in so the UK Fisheries Ministers can go off electioneering.

“ These are important talks for Scotland’s fishing industry with the sector seven times more important to Scotland than the UK as a whole. I’ve attended these talks for over seven years on behalf of the interests of Scotland’s fishermen – yet instead of a sensible and respectful decision in favour of Scotland leading for the UK in the talks, I will instead have to brief Lord Ponsonby.

“ Once again a key part of the Smith Commission agreement is being torn up. It’s no wonder Scots are turning away from the Westminster parties as a result. The confirmation that a peer with no involvement in fisheries is to lead these talks exposes the Tories’ real attitude to Scotland – it makes a mockery of the so-called respect agenda and previous agreements that the Scottish Government is able to lead on the area of fisheries policy.

“ This is total arrogance and disrespect from the UK”