Beyond Brexit Letters Special: The EU may well have been the salvation of Scotland's fishing industry

IN an article as part of your Beyond Brexit series, David Ross states: “The Scottish fleet declined during Britain’s time in Europe” (“Brexit is a fisherman’s friend but crofters are now on shaky ground”, The Herald, November 23). Figures were quoted to show how the number of fishermen employed on Scottish vessels in the 1970s was cut to less than half that number today. Similarly, the number of fishing boats longer than 10 metres was slashed from 1,318 in 1990 to only 583 in 2014. No-one can dispute these figures. However, they conceal an unpalatable truth. In the 1970s, the Scottish fleet was landing more than 300,000 tonnes of cod every year. Modern technology had improved to such an extent that fishermen could indulge in this Olympic fishery with impunity.

But landings on this scale were wholly unsustainable. By the 1990s, cod stocks and indeed stocks of other key demersal species in the North Sea had all but collapsed. This was the reason why the EU’s hated Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was forced to introduce endless regulations and controls to try to save the industry. This was the reason why de-commissioning schemes encouraged many struggling skippers to scrap their vessels and why the number of fishermen in Scotland has more than halved.

But this is also the reason why cod stocks in the North Sea have now doubled, stocks of plaice have trebled and hake stocks have quadrupled. Haddock and nephrops (prawns) have increased too; the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) could award North Sea cod a sustainability ticket as early as next year. With far fewer vessels and fewer fishermen, a profitable future beckons for the industry. But fishermen who are throwing their hats in the air in celebration of Brexit should beware. A return to the unsustainable fishing of the 1970s and 80s can never be allowed to happen again.

Scotland’s fisheries sector should also take a long hard look at the challenges facing the industry after we leave the EU. It is well known that 58 per cent of the fish caught in UK waters – around 650,000 tonnes – is currently caught by foreign fishing vessels. Our fishermen are rubbing their hands together in gleeful expectation of chasing away all the foreigners and landing all of this catch ourselves. But we have to find a market for these fish. We export thousands of tonnes of fresh fish to France, Spain, the Netherlands and other EU nations every week. Are those countries going to be happy to buy our fish after we have expelled their boats from UK waters or will they impose stringent tariffs to protect their own fishing fleets? The prevailing sense of euphoria in the industry needs a reality check. The CFP certainly had its flaws, but without it, there may have been no fishing industry left today.

Struan Stevenson,

MEP for Scotland from 1999-2014 and former President of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee,

Ballantrae, Girvan.

BREXIT means Brexit. So what does this actually mean?

What it means can be quite clearly defined now. In March 2017, Article 50 will be triggered, presumably with the consent of Parliament, meaning the UK leaves the European Union in March. 2019. The UK will then enjoy, as far as the EU and the rest of the world is concerned, the status of any other country in the world in the UN, which is not a member of, or associated with, through a trade deal or otherwise (such as Nato), the EU.

This is the UK’s basic bargaining position, along with the financial implications, be they positive or negative on either side.

Theresa May’s problem is to formulate a raft of plans to improve on this less than comfortable position by working back from it. But this will remain the starting position from which she has to work back to some sort of agreement to preserve the positive elements of the UK’s relationship with the EU and every single one of its 27 member states.

Statements made during the referendum campaign that the EU will be glad to concede “continuing EU status” and the like to the UK have no basis in anything other than the pipedreams of those who made them.

Facts are that trade deals, and their concomitant freedom of movement agreements, with the EU, the United States, and even the (presumably beloved by Brexiters) Commonwealth, take decades to agree.

Given Donald Trump’s statement (“Trump ends emails probe”, The Herald, November 23) that he will tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the backing of a Republican Congress, all bets involving the US are off. We should expect horrendous visa procedures when Mr Trump gets round to considering how many Muslims there are in the UK.

The EU will only consider representations from a sovereign nation. As far as the EU is concerned Scotland is no more (in fact probably less) important than Gibraltar.

Incidentally Gibraltar’s problems should have been solved decades ago by declaring the Rock part of the UK and giving it an MP, like France did with its “colonies” by making them Départements “Outre Mer”, and therefore parts of the EU, ditto the Falklands.

One of our easier options might be to open negotiations with Norway with a view to becoming a Norwegian colonial dependency. Then we would at least be a member of the European Free Trade Association.

Bill Clark,

8 Grahamshill Street, Airdrie.

I AM puzzled by Jim Robertson’s letter (November 22). He admits that “foreign staff at all levels are essential to the NHS”, but then goes on to suggest that there are obvious reasons why it is wrong to consider that Brexit will be a threat to this staffing source. I, however, am under the impression that various Government pronouncements have already raised the spectre of these very dangers.

Mr Robertson maintains that, after Brexit, ”EU citizens should have no weaker migratory status than those from further afield”, “even Ukip has not proposed a moratorium”, “there has been no serious suggestion … that they should be summarily thrown out”. This may be how he wishes things were, but I am certain that I have heard the exact opposite.

First, Theresa May has so far categorically refused, despite many pleas, to reassure EU citizens living and working here that their residency is secure. So do they hang on here in hope or leave voluntarily before they are deported? Second, a parliamentary statement by the minister declared the intention to train sufficient British doctors to enable foreign doctors to be sent home. Are they also going to wait around to be thrown out at a time that suits us?

Whilst these two points refer to the future possibly facing EU staff in the NHS, we have had some fairly scary situations already which do not inspire confidence in Westminster altruism or even fairness. What about the Brain family, promised a visa to stay and then plunged into debt due to a change in regulations being applied retrospectively? Or the baby to whom a letter was sent personally, refusing to allow return to the city of birth in Scotland? Is this the “no weaker migratory status” to which Mr Robertson refers? Come the crunch of actual Brexit, can these people be confident of fair treatment?

Yes, these people “are here because they want to be”, but I cannot help feeling that they have every definitive reason” for being very afraid of Brexit. And so do we, if they play safe and abandon our NHS when our need of them is so great.

P Davidson,

Gartcows Road, Falkirk.

KIRK Gowans (Letters, November 23) writes: ” If I were to resign from my golf club … my membership would cease at the end of the club year”. I suspect that if the members of his golf club wished to make a fundamental change to the constitution of the club, then they would require a two thirds majority to do so. If the Brexit referendum had had such a requirement then we would not now be adrift in a sea of political and economic uncertainty.

P McGill,

12 MacCallum Place, Kilmarnock.

THE question we should be asking Theresa May is how high the Brexit cliff edge is from ground zero? We already know that the Brexit cliff edge exists, despite many denials to the contrary from people who should know better. When we jump (or are pushed), I want to know how far it will be to the bottom. No parachutes will be issued by Mrs May, and no soft landings will be guaranteed. No, the Scots are not all better together jumping off the Brexit cliff edge with anti-European Unionist lemmings, into an abyss not of our making.

William C McLaughlin,

45 Mill Place, Thankerton, Biggar.

IN your front page article today which discusses the results of a BMG poll conducted for The Herald (“Hard border pain for a Remain gain”, The Herald, November 23), I have to question your choice of subsidiary headline, “Poll finds 43% back controls if it means staying in the EU” , whereas a little later in that article, in percentage terms a more significant result of this poll is that 57 per cent would prefer Scotland to be outside the EU with free trade and open borders with the rest of the UK , which of course is the situation as at present. Unless your policy is to promote EU membership for Scotland over continued UK membership, would the latter result not have been a more appropriate headline?

Alan Fitzpatrick,

10 Solomon’s View, Dunlop.

SOME recent correspondents have been scunnered (Letters, November 18 & 22). I, too, am scunnered, but by your series of doom-laden front page headlines.

Unemployment is of course down, record numbers are in work, inflation is below what was forecast and growth is better than expected.

Oh, for some positive thinking.

David Miller,

80 Prestonfield, Milngavie.

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