Ap­peal for is­lands to con­trol fish­ing zones

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

THE con­trol of fish­ery zones west of the He­brides should be de­volved to the is­lands af­ter Brexit, Western Isles MP An­gus MacNeil ar­gued in par­lia­ment.

Mr MacNeil’s call comes as it was re­vealed in a doc­u­ment leaked to The Times news­pa­per that the fish­ing in­dus­try is not a top pri­or­ity for the UK gov­ern­ment in Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, and has been des­ig­nated of ‘medium im­por­tance’.

In last week’s de­bate on the Euro­pean Union (No­ti­fi­ca­tion of With­drawal) Bill in the House of Com­mons, Mr MacNeil said: ‘I rep­re­sent prob­a­bly the only con­stituency to reach 200 miles of the ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone.

‘Surely there is a case not just for putting Scot­land in con­trol of fisheries, but for giv­ing the He­brides and is­land groups some power over them?

‘ We should cer­tainly not leave them in the charge of those in West­min­ster who sold them down the river once and, given this White Pa­per, are look­ing to sell them down the river again?

Mr MacNeil drew at­ten­tion to the ‘Our Is­lands, Our Fu­ture’ cam­paign led by is­land lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, which is seek­ing more de­volved de­ci­sion-mak­ing at a lo­cal level and said fisheries was a solid ex­am­ple of where this could be put into prac­tice.

He said: ‘ As the UK gov­ern­ment ploughs ahead with a seem­ing dis­as­trous Brexit, with no idea at to where its ne­go­ti­a­tions will take us, we can try to sal­vage some­thing for the is­lands on the West Coast, as there is preva­lent con­cern about the pri­or­ity be­ing given to the fish­ing in­dus­try.

‘Many in the fish­ing in­dus­try voted to leave the EU in last year’s ref­er­en­dum, but they did not ex­pect to be treated as any­thing less than a top pri­or­ity in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

‘At the mo­ment, a lot of mack­erel and her­ring are caught on the west coast of Scot­land but no boats on the West Coast have quo­tas. That has to change.’

With­draw­ing from the EU will mean with­draw­ing from the Com­mon Fisheries Pol­icy. The UK will have to rene­go­ti­ate its quota of to­tal al­low­able catches for stocks that are shared with the EU and neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. The ma­jor­ity of fish caught by UK fleets are ex­ported, mostly to EU mem­ber states.

Top pri­or­i­ties iden­ti­fied in the leaked UK gov­ern­ment re­port in­clude phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, car-mak­ing, tex­tiles and cloth­ing, aero­space and air trans­port; fish­ing and chem­i­cal in­dus­tries are awarded medium pri­or­ity; and steel con­struc­tion, oil and gas, and telecoms are given low pri­or­ity.

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