THE purpose of this series is to show what a hard Brexit could do to Scotland, so it seems only right to highlight one industry which is eagerly anticipating withdrawal from the single market and European Union because its employers and workers think they are being given a “sea of opportunities”.

The Scottish fishing industry is virtually unanimous in welcoming Britain’s exit from the EU.

The industry insists that post-Brexit the UK will have control of its seas – the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone which has some of the best fishing grounds in the world.

Loading article content

Scottish Fishing Federation (SFF) chief executive Bertie Armstrong, pictured, said: “The goal is clear – to grasp the enormous opportunity that Brexit presents. The figures quoted in the (UK Government) White Paper illuminate the potential with EU vessels catching 683,000 tonnes (£484 million revenue) of fish in UK waters compared with UK vessels catching 111,000 tonnes (£114m revenue) in EU waters.

“This is a world-class natural resource, for which full rights and responsibilities will transfer to the UK at the point of Brexit. It is a precious national asset that will last into perpetuity and which must not be traded away in the forthcoming negotiations.

“For fishing communities the length and breadth of the UK, Brexit is a golden opportunity – indeed a sea of opportunities – which we must not squander.”

According to the industry’s analysts, almost 60 per cent of the UK’s fish are caught by non-UK vessels under the common access granted by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The SFF says the CFP is a remote and flawed system characterised by unacceptable compromises. On Brexit the CFP will no longer apply to the UK, creating the opportunity to put in place a reactive, effective fisheries management system tailored for our own needs.

An SFF spokesperson said: “The industry looks forward to a new era of close and meaningful cooperation and collaboration with Government in developing and executing the new management and decision-making arrangements.

“Considerable additional resource, supported by a competent management system, will result in increased economic activity in the fishing fleets, the communities that support them and the downstream supply chains.”

The SFF is concerned about fishing being used as a bargaining chip in future UK-EU deals – “there must be no trading away of access for non-fishery reasons in Brexit negotiations,” is their stated position.

Armstrong therefore welcomed assurances by Scottish Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing and Scottish Secretary David Mundell that fishing will not be used as a bargaining chip.

The chief executive said: “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.

“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.”