What an Eton mess! As Boris Johnson’s ‘oven-ready’ deal with the European Union fell to pieces on the kitchen floor of No. 10 Downing Street, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told his MPs to vote for the botched treaty, despite having accurately predicted its disastrous consequences.
The betrayal of the British seafood industry by the two biggest parties in the House of Commons is a national scandal. Brexit’s local consequences are lower prices for fish, as access to EU customers is closed off by red tape, and boats forced to tie up or steam hundreds of miles to land in Denmark.
Shetland fishermen who voted for Brexit and the Conservative Party were promised more fish. They now find they will have less. They were promised ‘a sea of opportunity’. Now they must navigate a whirlpool of bureaucratic chaos and blocked markets.
In this omnishambles it’s heartening to hear the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP and Orkney and Shetland’s Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael exposing the dishonesty and incompetence of a Tory government with no mandate north of the border.
Both MPs voted against the shameful deal and are suggesting practical ways to solve the immediate financial crisis in the seafood industry. Their efforts are commendable, but in London they’re powerless before an ignorant, arrogant Tory fisheries minister who represents an Oxfordshire constituency and couldn’t be bothered to read the fine print of the fisheries deal before she voted for it in the Commons last month.
Even if some interim arrangements are agreed to let Shetland resume regular, reliable seafood shipments to European markets, this Tory-designed crisis must be a time for serious reflection.
Many Shetlanders who’ve never considered voting for the SNP will now be thinking of supporting Scottish self-government in Holyrood’s election this coming May and at the independence referendum which must surely follow.
An independent Scotland could quickly join the European Free Trade Area and enjoy the same control over our fisheries as Norway has.
Re-joining the European Union would obviously take longer but, if and when Scotland does become a full member, the deal would have to be very different from the current Common Fisheries Policy — which the SNP has opposed for almost 50 years.
It should be a deal based on local preference, local control and environmentally sustainable fishing methods.
Maree Todd MSP
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