Scotland politics

Scottish fishermen given Brexit assurance

fishing boats Image copyright Getty Images

The UK government has assured fishermen that it will remove the most unpopular parts of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) after Brexit.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said "no decision has yet been made" on the extent to which the CFP would be incorporated into British law.

But she pledged to "disapply the key elements" which are "most unpopular".

The CFP has been extremely unpopular among Scottish fishermen, who are said to have overwhelmingly backed Brexit.

Anger has generally been focused on quotas for fishing catches and on other European fleets being given equal access to fishing grounds in Scottish waters.

'Unpopular and unworkable'

In a letter to the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF), Ms Leadsom wrote: "It is essential that we take the opportunity to develop a fisheries regime that is better-suited to our seas and industries."

She added that as the UK leaves the EU "we will look to disapply the key elements of the CFP that are most unpopular and unworkable for the UK as a coastal state".

This would include the EU quota-setting regime and the right of European boats to fish in UK waters.

And Ms Leadsom said the government was looking to "ensure we have full control over UK waters when we leave the EU".

In a series of tweets on Tuesday evening, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the letter showed that the UK government was "planning to sell out Scottish fishing - again".

Image copyright @NicolaSturgeon
Image caption Ms Sturgeon has accused the UK government of planning to "sell out" fishing communities during Brexit negotiations

The first minister added: "As Scottish Tories tell fisherman Brexit means no CFP, letter says UK gov considering incorporating CFP rules into domestic law."

Ms Sturgeon also highlighted a section of the letter which said the UK government was "committed to co-operation with other countries over management of shared stocks".

She claimed that it was "clear that Tories are planning another fisheries sell out. That's why fishing communities need strong SNP voices".

The private letter from Ms Leadsom was subsequently released in full by SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong, who defended the UK government's position.

'Seize this opportunity'

Mr Armstrong met Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in Peterhead on Wednesday morning as part of the SFF's campaign to gain support from all political parties to "exit the CFP straitjacket".

He said: "Any reading of this letter in full makes it clear that the UK government is committed to ensuring we exit the CFP and reassert control of our waters.

"In fact, at our meeting with Ms Leadsom in March, she said that we are leaving the EU and we are leaving the CFP.

"It is evident that the government shares the determination of the entire industry to seize this opportunity to regenerate our coastal communities."

Image copyright @sff_uk
Image caption Ruth Davidson signed the SFF's Brexit pledge on Wednesday morning

Ms Davidson said that SNP "scaremongering" had been "exposed for the trash it is".

She said: "The first minister's hands are all over this - she took to social media to whip up unfounded claims about the UK government's approach to our fishing industry.

"Scotland's fishing leaders have directly contradicted her to make it clear they are satisfied with the UK government's approach.

"If Nicola Sturgeon has even a shred of decency, she will retract her absurd claims."

'Fundamental reform'

SNP election candidates Eilidh Whiteford and Mike Weir - who are seeking re-election in fishing communities - last month signed a pledge to support the UK in quitting the CFP.

The pledge states that: "We must avoid any policy, practice, regulation or treaty which could return us to the Common Fisheries Policy and the enforced giveaway of almost two-thirds of our fish stocks."

But the SNP's official policy is for an independent Scotland to be a full member of the EU and signed up to the CFP.

This has led Ms Davidson to claim the SNP's position is "absurd" - but Ms Sturgeon argues that her party has been consistent in calling for "fundamental reform" of the CFP.