Sturgeon fury as Scottish fishing industry dubbed ‘collateral damage’ in Brexit row

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In a letter to the Minister, Deidre Brock MP the SNP’s shadow Defra secretary said that the fishing industry is being treated as “collateral damage” in the dispute “caused by the UK Government”. Ms Brock said in the letter: “This is another example of Scotland paying the price for a Brexit we didn’t vote for – and once again it is our fishing industry that is collateral damage in a dispute caused by the UK Government.“

The letter also clarifies that the responsibility for issuing licenses lies with the Marine Management Organisation and not Marine Scotland – therefore it is Defra’s responsibility to determine whether that licence was on the list or not.

The shadow secretary said: “A week has passed and still the UK Government is unable to provide us with answers as to why the scalloper seems to have dropped off the list of licensed vessels.

“The UK Government has been all over the place on this issue – unaware of their responsibilities and issuing the wrong information.

“That was absolutely not good enough when we had a Scottish scalloper and crew detained in France.

“The Secretary of State must clarify immediately what caused this problem in the first place.”

Speaking of whether Scottish vessels were at risk in the future of similar incidents, Ms Brock said: “Fishers still don’t know if incidents like this could happen again, forcing them to reconsider visits to their usual fishing grounds in what would normally be a busy pre-Christmas period, and increasing the anxiety and concern they already have for their livelihoods following Brexit.”

Warning of further Christmas shortages, she said: “The fear is that this incident is being used to distract from tough upcoming fish negotiations, from the prospect of empty shelves at Christmas and as a straw man to excuse fights with the EU.”

The shadow minister also took aim at the Conservative Government, raising the question as to the false promises that were made surrounding Brexit.

She said: “The debacle is just another kick in the teeth for Scotland’s fishing industry after the Tories guaranteed a ‘sea of opportunity’ following Brexit. “

She added that all Scotland sees is a “sea of anguish”.

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UK fisheries envoy and Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid said: “It is entirely predictable that the SNP has sought to turn recent events towards their obsession with constitutional matters, instead of seeking to support our fishing and seafood industry.

“Because this case is under investigation, I am limited to what I can say specifically but I am glad to see the scalloper and its crew have been released.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Control and enforcement of vessels is a routine activity and we have condemned the action taken by the French in this case.

“As this case is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, we are unable to comment further.”

The fishing started when French fishermen complained that they had not been granted licences to fish in British waters as agreed during the Brexit negotiations.

Emmanuel Macron has vowed to take a stance against the British.

Stringent checks at ports for British vehicles, curbing of electricity supplies, denial of entry into French ports and collective punishment by the EU have all been on Mr Macron’s list.

Britain argues that many of the boats seeking to fish in British waters could not prove they had done so prior to the Withdrawal Agreement, and hence justified denying them the licence.

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