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Fishermen welcome Mundell pledge on Brexit negotiations

Scottish secretary of state David Mundell - the only Tory MP in Scotland. Photo: Shetland News

THE SCOTTISH Fishermen’s Federation has welcomed assurances that fishing will not be used as a so-called bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.

Scottish secretary of state David Mundell insisted to a Scottish Parliament committee last week that Westminster had no intention to use the industry as a tool when the UK works out its terms for leaving the European Union.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) chief executive Bertie Armstrong said that, while the organisation welcomed the news, there will still be a lot of work to be done in the coming months and years.

The SFF said nearly 60 per cent of the UK’s fish was caught by non-UK vessels through the Common Fisheries Policy, but the industry hopes to have full control of its waters after leaving the EU.

“There would appear now to be a consensus on the part of the UK and Scottish governments that the fishing industry simply must not be deployed as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations,” Armstrong said.

“David Mundell’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament committee this week and Scottish fisheries minister Fergus Ewing’s statement to MSPs in January are equally clear about that.

“This is very welcome news for many rural communities in Scotland which depend on the industry for jobs. Of course there is a long, long way to go, but we look forward to regaining control of a key natural resource for the benefit of this and future generations.”

Last week Scottish fishing minister Fergus Ewing warned UK government ministers responsible for negotiating Brexit that “they cannot trade away Scotland’s valuable fishing resources as part of a wider negotiation as though they were some pawn in a chess game”.

At a meeting in Lerwick earlier this month about the implications of Brexit on the islands, Shetland Fishermen’s Association’s Simon Collins said a positive impact would be felt within the industry as soon as the UK left the EU

Scalloway farmer Ronnie Eunson, however, said he had never seen more fish being landed profitabily in Shetland. 

Professor Michael Keating, who hosted the meeting, said fishing seemed to be “way down the list of priorities compared with other industries; and even as a trade-off it is small beer”.

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