I thank the cabinet secretary for prior sight of his statement. He is aware that quota speculation is a barrier to entry to fishing, with quotas changing hands at incredible prices that are way out of the reach of new entrants. What action does he propose to take to end quota speculation? Will he consider looking at community ownership of existing and new quotas, which would ensure that they remain rooted in the communities that fishing supports? That would not only stop speculation, but make quotas available to the local fishing industry and new entrants to the industry.
Those are very reasonable questions. In respect of steps that we are taking to reduce speculation, it should be clear that, currently, the holders of fishing licences—the right to fish—have invested substantially in new vessels. They have a legitimate expectation—I think that that is the legal expression—that their investment is secure and will continue to be recognised. We are on record as stating that any change to that system—if there was a wish to introduce such a change—would take at least seven years; advice has been received to that effect. We are dealing with property assets that have been built up over time by the efforts of individuals in a risky, dangerous venture.
That said, as I set out to Mr Chapman a minute ago, we believe that, by using the powers in respect of licences and future quotas, we are able to do several things. The first is to facilitate new entrants to the industry; the second is to consider the possibility of having quotas that attach to local communities rather than to individuals; and the third is to deal further with the issue of requiring quotas to be held and used by people who are actively fishing. I hope that, in all three respects, Rhoda Grant and her colleagues will support those measures.
I hope that I have answered all Rhoda Grant’s questions, but I will check later