SNP Euro MP Ian Hudghton was in Shetland on Monday to lobby local fishermen that only a Yes vote in the forthcoming independence referendum can secure Scotland influence in protracted fisheries negotiations.
Hudghton has been a member of the fisheries committee since first being elected to the European Parliament in 1998.
While in Shetland he held meetings with Shetland Fishermen’s Association, staff at the NAFC Marine Centre and also visited Whalsay together with members of the Yes Shetland campaign group.
Quoting the incoming discards ban and the dispute over pelagic fisheries rights in the north east Atlantic, the 62 year old said that for too long Scotland’s, and Shetland’s, interests at the European negotiation table had been neglected.
He said the Common Fisheries Policy has been a disaster for Scottish fishing communities because UK governments have “repeatedly and successively” traded away Scottish interests, as they were deemed “expendable”.
“After 15 years on the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, for me there is no clearer example than fisheries that Scotland needs to be represented internationally,” Hudghton said.
A Yes vote on 18 September would mean that “for the first time as a country Scotland would have the guaranteed right to have a say among governments as policies develop”, he continued.
“Our experience as a country and fishing as an industry would be transformed by the fact that we had the absolute right to be there at every stage of decision-making and not just when UK ministers chose to agree that our priorities should be heard.
“I invite fishermen to consider that a Scottish government elected by the people in Scotland would be bound to give a higher priority to Scotland’s main issues such as fisheries than has been given by Westminster.”
He said is was a misconception that Scotland “as a wee country” would be outvoted as “the vast majority of decisions made among the member states in the council of ministers are made by consensus and not by vote”.
Asked if he was worried whether an independent Scotland would remain a member of the European Union, he said the real issue to worry about was the possibility that Scotland could lose EU membership against its will in 2017.
“There is a bigger worry coming from the UK government’s current position on an in-out referendum.
“That could result in a decision to whisk Scotland out of the EU without Scotland having a say.
“It would be perfectly possible for Scotland to vote in favour and the overall result to be against – and so we would be out of the EU against our will.
“I would like that kind of decision to be made by Scotland as Scotland, and the first step for that is the opportunity in September to choose a Yes vote and enable Scotland to be a normal independent country,” he said.