NEWLY elected Tory MEP Ian Duncan said he was determined to make Europe work better for local people during his first visit to Shetland since the May elections.
Duncan, who replaced former European fisheries committee vice chairman Struan Stevenson as Scotland’s Tory MEP, held talks with representatives of the fishing industry about the impending discards ban while in the isles.
As a member of a party that is campaigning for less involvement with Brussels and planning an in/out referendum in 2017, he said he saw no contradiction in trying to make Europe work better for the UK.
There were even policy areas where Europe should get more involved than it is already, he said.
Duncan was shocked when he found out that the mechanics of the discards ban have yet to be agreed, even though the policy comes into force for the pelagic fishing industry on 1 January.
“The industry’s concern is that everything is being done in a rush despite the fact that the discards ban has been spoken about for years,” he said.
“Fisherman are concerned that they are going to be held accountable to a law which doesn’t exist.”
Meanwhile an even greater challenge faces the whitefish industry, for whom the discards ban is due to be implemented in 2016.
Duncan said the issue highlighted a fundamental problem with Europe, as laws and regulations were often introduced without proper consultation and were thus insensitive to local concerns.
“Time and again things are brought in either in haste or in confusion. There is frustration and resentment by those affected, and that blame is directed at the EU or MEPs.
“My job is to make Europe work. I am out there right now trying to help make the discard ban work.
“If it doesn’t, it brings everybody into disrepute; it makes fishing difficult and it makes the legislator look stupid.”
He added: “As a Tory I don’t see a contradiction in trying to make Europe work better.
“There are areas where I think the EU shouldn’t be as involved as it is now, but there are also areas where I think the EU should be more involved, such as the situation with the interconnector.
“I would argue we should have a common energy market and underpin the market with interconnectors – produce energy here in Shetland and then transmit to where it is required.
“That would be best done in a European market and not just a UK market.
“But Brussels should pull back from fisheries and allow Edinburgh to work on a more devolved approach with Lerwick, Peterhead, Ullapool and so on.”
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