THESE last few weeks I felt privileged as I journeyed through the vibrant world of Scotland’s seafood industry, culminating in a captivating experience at the inaugural SeaFest in Peterhead.

The story of Scotland’s seafood industry is embedded in our history, our culture and our survival. It is quite pertinent in my constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast.

From Buckie to Boddam, we have fishing ports dotted along the coastline and they are emblems of local ingenuity, community engagement and commitment to sustainability. It is noteworthy that as constituencies go, this one is a cornerstone of seafood not just at home but globally.

Peterhead, home to Europe’s largest white fish port, is the crown jewel of Scotland’s seafood industry. Just one stroll through its vast fish market makes it apparent that it is no ordinary marketplace – it’s a testament to Scotland’s ingenuity and its role in the global food economy.

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With tonnes of fish all lined up and neatly presented, it has a smell as fresh as the sea air. The cleanliness and the meticulous organisation were almost in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the bidding competitors.

Although maybe rivals in business, they very much had a community spirit, for the respect and pride in the market was tangible.

I had a tour of a local pelagic business which catches and processes.

The investment into the local economy, providing jobs directly involved in the fish processing sector and jobs in the development of larger-scale industrial units to expand and upgrade the rapidly evolving industry, was a testament to the dedication this business had for local people and our future sustainability to be at the centre of our seafood chain, here and for our export markets.

The competitive nature of business certainly didn’t go unseen, particularly when looking abroad. We must ensure our Scottish businesses are fit for the future and support those driven to develop and expand, helping to keep our sector thriving here in the north-east.

The SeaFest was a roaring success. Established chefs and culinary students alike captivated audiences, sharing secrets of perfect seafood pairings with other local produce.

In this landscape, young and old gathered to learn, to experience, and to celebrate the brilliance of our local produce.

This wasn’t just a food festival – it was a symposium of Scottish maritime life, enriched by live events, children’s activities and culinary delights.

During my visit, it was a highlight to meet with Jimmy Buchan, managing director of the Amity Fish Company, who has worked incredibly hard to ensure that the best of what we had to offer was on display.

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I have no doubt this festival will only grow in size and engagement over the years. It is exactly what we needed to showcase what we have to offer, to celebrate and highlight our international success.

I also bumped into Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, who was there to enjoy the day, too, while immersing in the success story of our fishing industry and enjoying the seafood but also acknowledging the importance of this sector to our economy and future sustainability.

The significance of SeaFest as a keystone event must be recognised.

It casts a spotlight not just on the fishermen who brave the sea but also on the meticulous hands that craft this bounty into culinary masterpieces. The importance of seafood as a staple in our food chain cannot be understated.

As we celebrate the wealth of our seas, let’s not forget the breadth of flavours they offer us. It’s not just the smoky richness of North Sea haddock or the buttery allure of Fraserburgh lobster that grace our plates.

Our waters also gift us succulent scallops and robust mussels. These delicacies, too, stand as testament to the hard work and innovation of our fishing communities.

I was brought up on herring for breakfast at my grandmother’s house – look at the sugary cereals that have taken over. How have we got to this point and how do we get back?

A question we must all work at answering.

This week, I have a speech to deliver in Parliament focusing on the success of Scotland’s food and drink, and celebrating our sustainability. I have certainly had a lot of “food for thought” over the last wee while and I do want to shout about our success, but I will also be pondering how we ensure the future supply, future safety and future security of our food and in particular our seafood.

As I prepare to stand before Parliament this week, what dawns on me is that this story, this incredible journey of sustainable fishing and community cohesion, is not just a regional success – it’s a herald of what Scotland can be.

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It symbolises the future we can all strive for, one where Scotland’s ambition for sustainable food isn’t hampered by a UK Government that prioritises trade deals to benefit its agenda and not those who provide us with the product.

Independence then is not just a theoretical construct, it’s a necessity.

Why should we allow our trade and food industry to be dictated to by a government that doesn’t prioritise us?

An independent Scotland offers us the powers where we make the decisions – and guide the world toward a future where the seas’ bounty is a treasured gift but one we never take for granted.

As we look to the future, the possibility of an independent Scotland holds the promise of autonomy in negotiating our own trade agreements. This could unlock even more opportunities for our burgeoning seafood sector, allowing us to re-invest and flourish.

A thriving industry means not just jobs but also economically robust coastal communities where populations are sustained. In this light, “Fishing for the Future” is more than just an industry slogan or political catchphrase – it embodies our collective aspiration for prosperity and wellbeing.

We should be the custodians of our own rich maritime resources – it’s our future after all.