17 May 2017

Rhoda's speech in the Scottish Parliament debate

The motion acknowledges that the fishing community see Brexit as providing them with an opportunity.

The common fisheries policy has always been a bone of contention for them, with annual negotiations based on horse trading rather than on sensible policies to manage our fishery for future generations.

There is now the opportunity to devise a policy to do that. However, fishing is still a political football, as we have seen this afternoon.

The SNP are looking both ways at once, promising to rejoin the EU but come out of the CFP.

That is nonsense.

If we were ever to rejoin the European Union, either as part of the UK or as a separate Scotland, we would not get a pick-and-mix membership; we would be told to take it or leave it.

It has proved impossible to negotiate a better CFP from within the EU, and it would be foolish to think that we could do that while begging to get back in.

It is also wrong for the Conservatives to say that a hard Brexit would lead to a free trade agreement with the EU—that simply would not be the case.

Although I do not agree with Brexit, I understand the wishes of the fishing community to come out of the EU.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to highlight the risks of leaving as well as the potential benefits.

Being in the EU means that our fish can be sold in Europe without any trade tariffs or red tape.

That means that it can be sold fresh in EU markets.

We know that the blockades at Calais meant delays and huge losses of fish that was no longer marketable.

Any delay in exporting fresh fish puts the market at risk, and I sincerely hope that such delays will not happen with Brexit.

It is clear from the Prime Minister’s statements that she understands that the EU will want access to UK fishing grounds as part of our future relationship with the EU.

Our fishing grounds will become one element of a negotiation that will have lasting ramifications for the fishing industry.

The future holds dangers for our fishing community, so while we talk up the opportunities, we must be alive to the risks.

We believe that, after the UK leaves the EU, repatriated responsibility for fisheries should be devolved to Scotland.

That will mean negotiating fishing rights and the management of fishing stocks with other countries. Fish do not recognise borders, so we need to work collaboratively to ensure that we have a sustainable fishery. We will still be subject to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which demands the use of quotas and sustainable management.

That will require us to negotiate with the EU just as we currently negotiate with non-EU countries.

Access to the single market is also necessary.

The fishing community fears bureaucracy more than it fears trade tariffs because bureaucracy could delay exports, meaning that the fresh-fish market could become unreliable.

That is an issue for not only our catching sector but our fish farm sector, which is often overlooked when we talk about fish supplies.

When we consider fisheries and Brexit, we would be wrong to consider the catching sector alone; we also need to consider the onshore jobs that depend on a vibrant fishing industry.

Many of those jobs are in rural Scotland, where they contribute to fragile local economies.

The jobs range from fish sellers and processors throughout the food chain to jobs that provide services to fishing communities—in chandleries and port infrastructure, for example.

Not only are those jobs essential to local economies but they provide services to our growing sea-going tourism industry, and, without fishing, those services would disappear from our ports, making catering for the growing leisure boat market more difficult.

It is not just rural communities that will be affected. Many of our fish processing jobs—especially those that add value—are based in more urban communities that are often in areas of high deprivation.

Losing that source of employment would be devastating for those communities, too.

Those urban and rural communities also need inward migration to help staff the food processing industry and keep it alive.

Migrant labour is also essential for the parts of the industry that are seasonal, and being out of the EU will impact on the supply of that workforce.

If it becomes onerous for those workers to gain work permits, they might go where they are more welcome, which again would impact on our industry.

We need to stop the political posturing that turns our fishing communities into pawns in a game. We need politicians to listen to the concerns of fishing communities and seize opportunities from Brexit.

We need to make sure that the opportunities are realised, but we also need to guard against the pitfalls.

I move amendment S5M-05603.2, to insert at end:

“; believes that there are challenges to be overcome in order to allow Scotland's fish to be sold in European markets, including the need to ensure that import controls are not bureaucratic in order to allow them to be sold fresh into that market; understands that Scotland must also continue to negotiate management of its seas with the EU, Norway, the Faroes and Iceland to ensure that the whole of the fishery is managed sustainably, as fish know no borders, and believes that repatriated powers should be devolved.”