Appeal for islands to control fishing zones
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.