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2011 Election – Fox: ‘Scott’s double U turn on fishing’

INDEPENDENT candidate Billy Fox has harked back to 2003 to remind local fishermen of Liberal Democrat candidate Tavish Scott’s “double U turn” on the Common Fisheries Policy.

At the time Mr Scott was deputy finance minister in the Labour/LibDem coalition running Holyrood, when he found himself in the awkward position of representing a Scottish executive led by first minister Jack McConnell that backed the CFP.

Having already resigned from the previous coalition executive of Henry MacLeish in 2001 after refusing to back the party line on a tie up scheme for trawlers, matters became more complicated in November 2003.

Mr Scott came out vocally against the CFP, and was ordered to retract his position as it broke the rules of ministerial collective responsibility.

However within hours he had reinforced his initial stance in comments to the media and local fishermen, saying: “”The CFP has failed, not just Scottish fishermen but all of Europe’s fishermen. It must go.”

The change of stance led to calls for his resignation from the Tories and SNP, led by current fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead, but he survived and was later promoted to transport minister.

On Thursday Mr Fox said that local fishermen would not forget Mr Scott’s “double U turn”.

“Even by LibDem standards this was exceptional.  I do not think the Shetland fishing community’s memory is that short.”

Mr Fox said that he, like his rival, supported the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s manifesto that calls for greater regional control of fisheries and closer working between fishermen and scientists.

“I have found in my working life that it is the folk on the shop floor, or on the water, who invariably know what is best for their industry. Unfortunately in the case of our fishing industry these folk have seldom been listened to, if ever.

“Since 2003 Tavish Scott has filed the fishing industry in his ‘too difficult’ drawer; that drawer now needs re-opening but Mr Scott is not the man to do it.”