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Marine / Government funding available for fisheries innovation

The fishing industry has reacted furiously to news that the UK will remain subject to the Common Fisheries Policy until at least December 2020.
Photo: Shetland News

FISHING businesses across the UK will now have access to £24 million of investment to develop technology, trial new gear and support research to improve the productivity and long-term sustainability of the industry.

The funding released by the UK Government to support better science and innovation projects is the first part of £100 million Seafood Fund designed to “level up” coastal communities.

The government said it will ensure industry is able to “process more fish landed in the UK, and create more job opportunities across the supply chain”.

The £100 million UK Seafood Fund will be divided into three areas – science and innovation, infrastructure and skills and training.

Further details on how to bid for funding will be announced in due course.

But Scottish Government rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon said the “new UK Government Seafood support fund tramples all over the devolution settlement” – claiming it risks “confusion and duplication”.

She also said the UK Government “doesn’t understand the unique needs of the Scottish industry”.

Announcing the news, UK Government minister for Scotland David Duguid said: “I know from extensive engagement with the Scottish seafood industry that the £100m UK Seafood Fund has been eagerly anticipated and I welcome the news that the substantial first tranche of funding will boost innovation and all-important sustainability.

“The UK Government has been steadfast in support of an industry pivotal to the wellbeing of coastal communities and we are determined all sectors – catching and processing – should be able to maximise the opportunities now before us.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Scottish seafood and aquaculture sectors to ensure this fresh funding drives the industry to new heights.”

Responding to the news, Gougeon said: “It’s greatly frustrating that consistent calls for this funding to be administered in a way that respects the devolved settlement have been disregarded.

“The Scottish Government has not even been invited to be involved in the development of the first pillar of the scheme, and detail was shared very late in the day.

“This ignores our vast knowledge and expertise on the unique needs of Scottish fisheries, our marine environment and our coastal and island communities.

“I have written directly to Fisheries and Food Minister Victoria Prentis, expressing our disappointment on both the exclusion of Scottish Government officials and that no attempt has been made to deliver the funding in a meaningful way.

“The Scottish Government has already had to pick up the pieces to support seafood sector after weeks of pain, stress, anger and financial detriment caused by the disastrous EU Exit deal. Fisheries is an area wholly devolved to the Scottish Government; we must therefore be the decision makers on investments in our valued seafood sector.”