LIVING in Moray, I found it infuriating to see placards everywhere depicting a smiling Haddock draped in the Union Jack proclaiming that a vote to leave the EU would “Save Our Fishing”.

Moray was the closest-run district in the whole of Scotland in the EU referendum, with entire family dynasties with links to fishing casting their vote to leave based purely on the misguided mantra that the EU is responsible for the demise of the fishing industry in Scotland.

As a former fisherman during the 1980s, and at that time part owner of new-built 65-foot trawler, I think it is time for all of our fishing communities to face up to some hard truths about the fishing industry and at whom the finger of blame for its demise should be pointed.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Scottish fleet had become the biggest and most powerful in Europe, to the point where the catching power far outstripped the resource. Boatyards were booming and so were the local economies. The vast majority of these vessels, however, including the one in which I was a partner, were built with the help of a 50 per cent EU grant. Without this, the boat could never have been built. The same applies to the vast majority of boats built in Scotland in that era.

As this new generation of boats, equipped with the cutting-edge of fish-finding equipment, became larger and ever more powerful, the need to catch more fish to fund them increased. New methods of pair trawling utilising much heavier and larger nets were developed, as well as twin-rig trawling with one powerful vessel towing two large nets. This effectively rendered no single area of the seabed, including the spawning grounds, safe from the Scottish fleets’ nets. Many owners had two rotating crews that would change over straight after landing so that the vessel turned right around and was constantly at sea, hammering the fishing grounds seven days a week.

A Catch-22 situation was created where the large boats were so expensive to run and heavily financed that they couldn’t afford to stop fishing for a single day!

By the end of the early 1990s the fish stocks were utterly devastated, with landings down vastly year on year and cod on the brink of extinction and haddock and whiting heading the same way. Extreme action had to be taken, with quota cuts and days at sea being introduced by the EU as the stark scientific data was presented but almost immediately and unsurprisingly dismissed by fishing industry leaders as unproven nonsense.

The EU grants for new vessels had stopped, but young ambitious skippers then turned to the big banks to finance even more powerful super trawlers being built both at Scottish and European yards, which were designed to work in the most extreme conditions at the outer reaches of the continental shelf and Rockall. The traditional inner waters had now been fished out and decimated, not by the EU but by our own Scottish fleet. The EU finally took drastic action when many fish species teetered on the brink of never recovering, and quotas were immediately cut again to the point where the new larger vessels were struggling to stay viable.

To rein in the size of the fleet, a short-term decommissioning incentive scheme based on the vessels’ tonnage and horsepower was introduced, with a maximum compensation of £1 million for the largest vessels. Skippers who had gambled by building multimillion-pound vessels at foreign yards now found themselves at the mercy of the banks to whom they had turned to finance their venture. Cold, hard economics of the banks decided the fate of many young north-east skippers as the unsympathetic banks decided to cut their losses at the fear of further quota cuts and grab the decommissioning payment while it was available, resulting in almost brand new multimillion-pound vessels sailing to the scrapyards of Denmark to be cut up and their owners made bankrupt with their livelihoods in ruins. Many other boat-owners decided to accept the decommissioning grants as well due to a mass migration of crews to the oil industry, adding to the already intolerable stress of trying to stay viable in impossible circumstances.

Today, fish stocks are recovering to healthy levels, but only thanks to EU intervention. Had the Scottish fleet been allowed to continue as it was the end-game would have been the same for the fleet, but there would have been no fish stocks today and no recovery. Many fishing families fished ethically, but if fishermen – especially those from that era who are blaming the EU while waving a Union Jack – need to point the finger at anyone for the tragic demise of the industry and our communities, then I suggest they take a good long look in the mirror.

Graeme Goodall
Buckie, Moray

Not all Scots who voted Yes wanted to remain in the EU

NOBODY seems to have thought about the fact that many of the Scots who voted to Leave the EU voted Yes in the Scottish Referendum.

Their reasoning for voting to Leave the EU is because independence to them actually means independence. It doesn’t mean leaving the controls of Westminster to fall under the control of the corrupt club which is the EU.

Any attempt by the SNP for another indyref needs to appreciate that these Yes voters will become No voters next time around if the SNP doesn’t give up the idiotic idea of rejoining the EU.

I am pretty sure that the SNP has lost a lot of support over Nicola Sturgeon’s breathtaking hypocrisy during campaigning for the EU Referendum.

Izzy Mac

SPAIN, and perhaps others, would not want to be seen approving EU discussions with Scotland because of the Catalonian implications.

It becomes urgent for not only the Spanish government to be made aware of our situation, which is quite different to Spain and Catalonia.

Spain should be made aware that the 400-year-old Scottish government was mutually suspended after the development of trade agreements in the very early 18th century.

That same Scottish government had stood since Robert the Bruce in 1309 and was the undisputed government of Scotland by 1314, but the experiment of conjoined governments has now clearly failed significantly and Scotland, always a dedicated European, intends to return proper government to its people and asks for Spain’s support in Scotland’s efforts to remain in the EU.

By the way, there are many Scots for whom this will also be news.

Christopher Bruce

THE EU referendum campaign and result has revealed a huge, almost unbridgeable, gulf between the concerns of the majority in this country and the MPs who are supposed to represent those views in parliament. This is a crisis of representative democracy that can be wholly attributed to the failure of our unwritten constitution and electoral systems.

We need a new constitutional settlement for the people of the UK but it needs to be drawn up, not by the UK government and its civil servants in London, but by representatives who are closer to the people: our local authority councillors.

I propose a Councillors’ UK Constitution Convention comprised of two representatives from each UK district, county, metropolitan county and borough, London borough, and unitary council to meet, elect an executive and subsequently agree a written UK constitution including electoral reform.

The finalised constitution should then be ratified by the Parliament of the UK, Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly and London Assembly and put to the people for their consent in a referendum.

Geoff Naylor

If Hilary Benn and the other “rebels” in the shadow cabinet feel that Jeremy Corbyn should no longer be leader of the Labour Party they have a simple method open to them to support their position. Resign their own parliamentary seat forcing a by-election and stand on a platform of change to the leadership as an anti-Corbyn candidate.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for this cabal to take this courageous and principled stand.

James Mills

GUESS that I’m one of those “old farts” being castigated and vilified on social media by youngsters. Well let me assure you all that I was disgusted when 16- and 17-year-olds were disenfranchised and when I completed my postal vote, I voted to Remain. I voted for my children and grandchildren, in fact for all young people who did not even get the chance to vote.

So let me encourage you all to join with Nicola Sturgeon, who is 1000 per cent determined to get the best arrangement for Scotland. You don’t have to join us in the SNP but you could also consider the Greens or any other pro-independence party or you can always just come along and help any local Yes groupwho I’m sure are busy re-forming as I type, that is if they ever disbanded.

Whatever happens, let us all keep this new campaign as peaceful as our last indyref. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have noisy marches, hard-hitting and hard-questioning debates but, please, please, lay off the nasty and offensive comments on social media.

Charlie Gallagher

I’M beginning to understand fully how people can be targeted as a group. So many of your letters and articles are targeting “baby boomers, older generation, over-65s”, etc, for the EU vote. I’m beginning to feel that I’ll need to carry a placard saying: “I voted Yes, Remain and I campaigned for the SNP in Holyrood and Westminster elections”. Please don’t lump us all together.

Morag O’Dea (age 69)

NOW that England and Wales have dragged us out of the EU, it’s high-time for Scotland to go it alone. Why should all our whisky, fish, oil, gas, food and tourism revenue go to Westminster? As Labour MP Jamie Reed said, the people have just voted to make themselves poorer. Only in Britain can this happen. There will be no workers’ rights now, soon there will be no welfare, no NHS, no human rights. They have more or less voted for greater austerity. That’s why we need a indyref2, and soon.

Let’s win it this time.

Stevie, Motherwell via text