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Election / Fishing industry set to gain support from all candidates

FIVE OF the six candidates vying for election in the Orkney and Shetland constituency have pledged to stand up for Scotland’s fishing sector with the sixth in the process of doing so.

Reform UK’s Robert Smith said he had never received an invitation from either the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) or the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) to sign the commitment to champion Scotland’s ‘vital fishing communities”.

The SFA said Smith had been contacted twice via the Reform party’s website.

The Orkney-based candidate said he first heard of the pledge after being contacted by Shetland News on Monday enquiring why he, as someone working in the industry, had not signed the pledge.

Smith said he was now in the process of contacting the SFA office himself, adding he has been a fisherman all his adult life.

“I have spent 30 years fighting for the interests of Orkney creel fishermen as head of the Orkney Creel Fishermen’s Organisation. With some success I might add,” the Reform candidate said.

Shetland is one of six coastal locations that the SFF is highlighting prior to July’s general election, reflecting the region’s importance as a hub for the sector.

The pledge is:

“I pledge to champion Scotland’s vital fishing communities and the sustainable, low-carbon food they provide by:

  • Improving the UK’s position as an independent coastal State – deciding who can fish in our waters and making our own decisions about fisheries management.
  • Making sure our fishing fleet can continue to thrive in our ever-busier seas – ensuring that UK-produced renewable food as is important as UK-produced renewable energy
  • Ensuring that those impacted by renewable developments offshore are treated as they would be for developments on land.
  • Using science and evidence to strike the right balance between conservation and sustainable harvesting of our seas.
  • Supporting fishing businesses to find the workforce they need to succeed – whether at home or where that’s not possible, from overseas through workable immigration policies.

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I have pride in our seas and all those who feed us from them.” 

The SFF said that in addition to marine protected areas, Scotland’s fishing fleet is facing increasing pressures from vast offshore renewable projects, which will encroach on traditional fishing grounds.

This “spatial squeeze” has been identified by independent research as having the potential to close more than half of Scottish waters to trawling by 2050.

Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised, an area of 213,000 km² (46 per cent of Scottish waters) is likely to be lost by then, threatening the very existence of fishing businesses and causing severe harm to coastal communities.

The SFF is calling for a re-evaluation of current policies to ensure that the fishing industry is not harmed in the race to expand renewable energy.

Chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “We need politicians across Scotland that respect and understand how essential this sector is for the economic and social fabric of constituencies like Orkney and Shetland and for the supply of sustainable, homegrown and healthy protein as part of wider food security.”

The other five candidates are Alex Armitage (Greens), Alistair Carmichael (Lib Dems), Robert Leslie (SNP), Shane Painter (Conservatives) and Conor Savage (Labour).

More about the candidates and our election coverage so far can be found here.


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