European funds to boost Scottish fishing projects
More than £11m of European funding is to be distributed to Scotland's fisheries sector.
The cash has been earmarked for 65 projects across the country, and could be the catalyst for investment of up to £48m in the sea fisheries, aquaculture and processing industries.
Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing confirmed the details of the package during a visit to a shellfish market.
He told the BBC that the money could be a "lifeline" for coastal communities.
The funding comes from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, backed up by the Scottish government.
Mr Ewing confirmed the funding during a visit to the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group in Bellshill, which has previously received £580,000 from the fund to upgrade its factory and purchase equipment.
One of the largest awards is to Peterhead harbour, where £5m of funding will go towards deepening the harbour and extending the fish market.
Other projects set to benefit include:
- £1.4m to Marine Scotland to market local seafood
- £623,000 for the Seafish Industry Authority to run safety training courses
- Several awards for mussel farming projects in Shetland
- £472,000 to the University of the Highlands and Islands for a shellfish hatchery programme
- £300,000 to install a high capacity ice plant at Lochinver harbour
- £332,000 for fisheries innovation projects based in St Andrews
- £136,000 to market Scottish seafood in North America
Mr Ewing told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "EU funding is a lifeline to many of our fragile coastal communities, and helps to create and sustain jobs in the fishing sector.
"It helps support improving fishing vessels and gear, it helps develop our facilities in ports and harbours - part of the announcement today will significantly improve the harbour at Peterhead. And it does make a substantial contribution to assist our fish sector - aquaculture, white fish and shellfish.
"The sector has been tremendously successful and I see that there are huge opportunities for sustainable growth in all of these areas."
The UK government has pledged to replace funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund after the UK leaves the European Union.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said he would give reassurance to organisations which receive EU funding that they would not lose out after Brexit.
However, Mr Ewing said there were several other schemes besides the EMFF which had not yet been guaranteed, and called for more certainty from the UK government.
He said: "There is no certainty at all. That really is extremely disappointing. We are now a few months after Brexit, there has been time to sort this out - the cabinet met at Chequers and I hope they were sustained by some high-quality Scottish salmon, as, after all, protein is good for the brain.
"They've had a lot of time to clarify this and they haven't done it. We haven't had the clarity yet, and I've raised it with the UK government and Mike Russell is of course now driving this forward."