FOREIGN Secretary David Cameron has vetoed an agreement between Scotland and Ireland to allow Irish fishermen access to the rich fishing grounds around Rockall.

Ownership of the tiny granite islet 230 miles off the coast of the Outer Hebrides in the Atlantic is disputed by the UK and the Republic of Ireland 263 miles to the south.

Irish vessels, which traditionally fished the waters around the remote rock for haddock and squid, were barred from a 12-mile territorial zone around it after Brexit, when the UK left the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

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Despite the Irish and Scottish governments spending two years agreeing an access deal – fisheries are a devolved power – it has now been shut down by the Foreign Office following the announcement of a General Election.

The deal involved Irish marine scientists carrying out research in the area that would be passed on to the Scottish fishing fleet in return.

The UK Government said it vetoed the deal because it could not see the benefits for Scottish fishermen, who have opposed letting Irish boats back in.

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However, sources told The Irish Times that the reason was entirely political in that the UK Government did not want to be seen agreeing a deal with an EU nation, especially with a General Election looming.

The veto is the latest example of Westminster overruling the devolved Scottish government following interventions on the gender recognition bill and the deposit return scheme.

Angus Robertson, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, said that as Scotland and Ireland had been working closely and constructively on this issue for several years, it was “disappointing” that it was not possible to implement a resolution before the UK election was called.

Robertson (below) added: “The Scottish Government stands ready to reengage with their Irish counterparts with a view to returning to the issue with the UK Government after the election.”

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The ownership dispute peaked in 2021 when crew from a Scottish marine protection vessels boarded Irish trawlers and ordered them to leave the area. But a detailed agreement was recently reached on the contentious issue after lengthy and delicate negotiations between the Republic and the Scottish government.

However, the Foreign Office became involved as the agreement would have had to be formally locked into the trade and co-operation agreement (TCA), the Brexit divorce pact between the UK government and the European Union negotiated by Boris Johnson.

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The UK Government would have had to formally approve the Scottish-Irish pact, in advance of a formal application by the EU to vary the TCA to accommodate Irish fishing around Rockall.

As the UK’s foreign secretary, Cameron would have had to sign off on it but on Thursday, the UK Government vetoed the deal.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said an agreement remained a “priority” and the Republic would “continue to work closely with Scotland” on it, as well as engaging with Westminster.