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A fishy business

Brian Taylor | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 11 June 2007

So how much do you know about the Bluefin Tuna?

Fairly little, I would guess. Certainly much less than Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs.

He’s in Luxembourg today, briefed to the gills about said tuna as he participates in EU Council of Ministers talks.

In search of enlightenment, I surfed the web about the Bluefin Tuna.

Top of my list was an article advising me that the BFT is being fished to extinction, with France, Italy and Spain named as key culprits.

Alongside that, incidentally, was a sponsored link tempting me to “feed my passion” for BFT and indeed every other marketable commodity on the globe or within its waters.

What strange beings we are.

But back to Mr Lochhead.

This is his European baptism. His chance to learn that the EU speaks umpteen public languages, each mutually incomprehensible - while the real dialogue is conducted, sotto voce, in Eurospeak; a curious tongue where each word carries a coded meaning which varies according to the recipient.

Not so much doubletalk as multispeak.

Mr Lochhead will already have been advised of the need to be co-operative.

He will have been reminded, gently, of the acquis communautaire - the body of law and custom which underpins the EU.

Right now, he will be meeting and greeting, chatting and discerning.

And quite right too.

He is new, he is utterly inexperienced. He needs to learn where the levers of power are.

And then of course, as the SNP forecast, he will be ready to take the lead in future fisheries councils.

Or not.

Standing in his way - ever so polite but ever so persistent - is the Fisheries Minister at Westminster, Ben Bradshaw, and his boss, David Miliband.

Both are in Luxembourg today, fretting about the Bluefin Tuna.

I’m told the atmosphere on the UK side has been cordial and constructive.

You bet it has. No-one needs a row at this stage.

But what if Mr Lochhead should embolden himself to the point where he seeks to implement the ambition set out in the SNP’s “100 Days” document, published in March?

What if he says: “Ah, quota negotiations for the white fish fleet - I’ll handle those.”

Expect the cordiality to evaporate, with Westminster ministers pointing out the constitutional reality - that the UK leads in Europe.

PS: Lord George Foulkes has helpfully noted that an investigation into alleged rendition flights is being conducted by the Government Intelligence and Security Committee at Westminster, on which he serves.

He said he was advising the first minister in order to avoid any further Megrahi-style misunderstanding between Westminster and Holyrood.

Nice one, George, but we could probably hear you more clearly if you took your tongue out of your cheek.


  • 1.
  • At 06:00 PM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • cassbhoy wrote:

Ah, there are lots of fishy things going on in Scottish politics at the moment.

Mr Salmon(d) circumvented a battering from an a rather unpleasant trout on Newsnight. Complaints elicited a rather coi apology from the Beeb. It haddockurred to Wee Eck to remind this red snapper that she had not fully cast her nets wide enough with regards to her research. Most interviewees would have clammed up, but Eck is not one to flounder and he proved that he is no shrimp. I thought that the way in which the interview ended was rather sole-less

Incidentally, Where I live (in Japan) the word for tuna is "magaro". This word is sometimes used to a woman or man who makes love rather passively, with no reciprocation and no conviction (it has the same nuance as "sleeping with her/him is like sleeping with a sack of potatoes). Is it no wonder then that political parties don't want to get into bed with each other to form working alliances? Maybe they are afraid of a "magarot" effect that would ultimately usher on a regretful post-coital smoke -- smoked Salmond?

I think that wee Eck will endure many roastings as FM. I believe that his depute Nicola -- what's her family name again? -- could be his saving grace. They worked really well together in the election campaign, and seem to be a good team. Hopefully, they will work together well to put an end to much of the codswollop that pervades UK politics and stand up to the wolffish nature of the media.

  • 2.
  • At 06:03 PM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

We need Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs to report back to the Scottish people how the Westminster machine operates with reference to, or possibly more correctly indifference to, Scotland and our interests.

Would it be unfair to accuse the previous First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs as they may not have realised what was happening?

  • 3.
  • At 09:58 PM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • Douglas wrote:

Simply want to say how much I enjoy your blog, Brian. Always informative and entertaining - and even occasionally very witty :)

keep up the good work.

  • 4.
  • At 10:49 PM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • Bee wrote:

I agree with #1 up to a point.However lets be honest,this is not rocket science,the previous admin choose not to rock the boat.Once settling in has taken place it is expected of Richard Lochhead to deliver for the good of the industries in Scotland.Not just in the short term but with keen projection to sustain and build on what we have left.

By the way,why was the link to your blog difficult to find?

  • 5.
  • At 11:48 PM on 11 Jun 2007,
  • Sandra wrote:

Would it be fair to note that perhaps Richard Lochead may have been better briefed on who is who in Europe than his predecessors from Scotland or indeed those from Westminster! Why? Madame Ecosse(Winnie Ewing had long spell there fighting for Scotland)Neil Mc Cormack,Ian Hudgton and Alyn Smith are not exactly without nouse.
Has anyone any suggestions, as to what exactly, Lord Foulkes has as a 'brief' because it does not appear to include standing up for Scotland - more the opposite!

  • 6.
  • At 09:10 AM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • David wrote:

Since when did Lord Foulkes become Her Majesty's Imperial Governor of Scotland?

Is no one else concerned about his Lordship's view that he "shall keep the Government informed on Scotland"?

Probably not - it fits in well with the BBC's London Calling message.

  • 7.
  • At 09:28 AM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • Niamh, Glasgow wrote:

'He is new, he is utterly inexperienced. He needs to learn where the levers of power are.'

Oops, I thought you were talking about his boss there!!

  • 8.
  • At 11:45 AM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • interested by-stander wrote:

I agree with Peter. We were told often that Ross Finnie, the previous Scottish Fisheries minister "led" the UK team. This was manifestly not the case as he sat with the stagiaire's in an overflow room.

So if Lochhead is sidelined it will be obvious and he will be able publicly to disagree with the UK negotiating position.

Bradshaw might also explain by what mechanism he is accountable to 70% of the UK fleet and why it is that Belgium can be represented by its Flemish as opposed to its Federal Minister in Council. The objection to Lochhead taking the lead is not at EU level, nor is the impediment to that.

  • 9.
  • At 12:02 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

It is worth pointing out that the "constitutional reality" preventing Richard Lochhead from leading the UK delegation is a part of the Scotland Act rather than the EU's acquis communautaire. Under the Treaty on European Union, there is provision for subnational (by which I mean member state) ministers to take the lead in negotiations on behalf of a member state.

Furthermore, the Scotland Act has already been shown not to be a fixed constitutional document as it has previously been amended to grant Scotland more power, albeit on a rather minor administrative area of transport.

What this all means is that rather than a settled constitution that UK ministers can point to and hide behind to say that they have no choice but to lead in negotiations, it is a political decision not to devolve the lead in that part of negotiations.

The practical difference of this? Well... none probably given that the SNP and Labour aren't exactly best chums right now.

  • 10.
  • At 12:23 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • Peter Thomson wrote:

George Foulkes - that well known and self confessed Westminster patsy advising Wee Eck!

Tsk! Tsk! Brian; next you will be expecting us to believe that George agrees with Tony that all the fish around Scotland are actually English fish on their summer holidays.

What next? Joke convincing Wee Eck that Edinburgh's Trams are a real bargain!

I can not wait.........

  • 11.
  • At 03:03 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • BryanMcC wrote:


Wee Ricky Locheid can go to Luxembourg if he likes but even if Ben Bradshaw is holding his hand he`ll find it a complete waste of time.
Why? As you rightly point out, the Acquis Communautaire (French) - That Which The Community Has Acquired (English). And Will Never Give Back (Truth).
The SNP will fail where their Lib/Lab predecessors failed when it comes to defending what`s left of Scotland`s Fishing Industry.
The decisions are already made as to how much of what the Spanish don`t get will be divvied up amongst the rest.
The Council of Ministers is just an exercise in giving the impression of accountability, the real power lies with the Unelected Commission.

Given that he`s elsewhere reported as sounding the death knell for Ferguson`s Shipyard by refusing to place an order for a Scottish Fisheries Protection Vessel, how much confidence can the electorate have in a Minister who will no doubt come back and explain how the latest fishing quota cuts are a triumph?

There may be a new set of inmates in the Holyrood Hamsterhouse, but when it comes to the EU, nothing has really changed has it Brian?


Ah so its a case of the Big Fish sending a mintie to catch a cod then?
The net result will be another one that got away for scottish fishermen.

George Foullkes????
People of Lothian,I ask again, what were you thinking of???
Or were you not thinking?
This man will clype to Westminster at every turn!
As for any enquiry instigated by Westminster, the public trust has been shaken on a number of occasions and hopefully remains sceptical of the outcomes.

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