I felt for poor old Ian Duncan MEP (Cons.) on Friday. One week ago he was proudly telling us how, with support from EU MEP colleagues, he had successfully intervened to delay the implementation of the impending cod discard ban, a 180-degree U-turn by the EU’s Fisheries Committee.
He was entitled to boast about that, it was a pretty impressive achievement.
Alas, the ink had hardly dried before, as if to prove that Laurel and Hardy are alive and well – and living in Brussels! – the EU Fisheries Committee executed a second U-turn, once more, reversing its decision and quashing Mr Duncan’s amendment.
The linked article notes that, as the Fishing News went to press, frantic efforts were under way to obtain a third 180-degree course change to convert their “S-turn” into a “W-turn”. Who is to say that, should they succeed, there will not follow a fourth reversal?
So, on 20 December, our fishermen still do not know whether the cod discard ban will be enforced on 1 January 2016 or delayed by a year, giving a maximum of twelve days’ notice to prepare, with Christmas and New Year in between!
There seems no end to the EU’s folly. The only thing missing from this Christmas farce is Lord Rix, running around the stage in his underpants.
Interesting, too, that Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), reaffirming commitment to working with Brussels, has reportedly appointed a young Spanish woman, expert in navigating the narrow, tortuous channels of that pork barreling, bureaucratic monster to assist.
Notwithstanding this double U-turn debacle, we hope the SFA’s initiative will bring results but we have our doubts. Whenever we hire an expert to promote our case, opponents will hire another to frustrate them – “Stalemate!”
Hiring champions to tilt at EU bureaucrats is ultimately futile, quixotic, even. Shetland needs control of her own fishing grounds and needs it now.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t co-operate with our EU and Scandinavian neighbours, we should. It means we want a seat at the table when the nature and detail of that co-operation is being thrashed out.
Wir Shetland’s position is reinforced by comments from SFA chief Simon Collins who, discussing the stalled pelagic fishery negotiations, described them as “hopelessly skewed” in favour of our Scandinavian neighbours. Why should that be?
It’s because the EU represents us, not our own negotiators. Worse, UK and Scottish ministers have failed, repeatedly, to defend Shetland’s interests. Local fishermen routinely refer to Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochead (SNP) as “Blockheid”.
Currently, two ways exist for Shetland to escape this lunacy:
UK Prime Minister David Cameron could add abolition of, or exit from, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to his list of demands for the Tories’ much-vaunted EU renegotiation or, secondly, the UK might vote to leave the EU.
We must wait and see what unfolds however were Shetland to achieve autonomous self-rule, we would be able to emulate our Scandinavian neighbours who have, either, not joined the EU (Faroe, Iceland, Norway), or left (Greenland, 1985).
To achieve autonomy Wir Shetland needs strong support from Shetland residents to force our current political masters to sit up and take note.
We already have more members than any of Shetland’s political parties, need more and are continuing our recruitment drive.
We are holding a roadshow in Symbister Hall, Whalsay, on Monday 21 December (7.00pm to 9.00pm) with a presentation about our policies and plans including issues such as school closures and ferry subsidies/services, as well as fisheries management.
We are hoping for – and early indications are that there will be – a big turnout of local residents for the event.
Wir Shetland committee members like doughty schools campaigner Councillor Andrea Manson, vice chairman James Titcomb, membership secretary Duncan Simpson and fisherman Gary Smith will be there to speak about us and answer your questions.
Please come along, join us in a cup of tea and let us know your views.