4 August 2019

We must protect our food and drink industry in Scotland as it was worth £944 million in 2017, our largest export and a large employer, especially in rural Shetland where for example 50 people are employed in Unst and similar in Yell, and many more across Shetland, in fish farming.

Whatever happens with Brexit, these industries will need support in the years to come.

There is no doubt that the fishermen feel aggrieved at the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and have done since the outset.

They want to be responsible for managing the EEZ around the UK and believe they can do it better.

They feel there is no room to reform the CFP because it will always be all the other countries against the idea.

It just so happens our EEZ is where the fish are, so I guess it feels like we’ve had to give away our rights more than others have done.

Fishermen also feel aggrieved at the discard ban and believe they have submitted better ideas that are not taken on board.

They do not see a problem with a no deal Brexit, as the hold ups at ports should not be prohibitive and fact is that the markets want our fish.

But, of course, the EEZ could be up for negotiation in any deal.

And there is nothing to stop wealthy fishing interests from other countries buying UK quota and therefore market share.

It does feel incredibly unfair that we had to give up one of our natural resources even if other countries have had to do the same, but also sad that this issue has been one of the factors in any leave vote.

A new approach is required within or without the EU.

The catching sector is valuable to Scotland yet forgotten in our very ‘central belt focused’ government.

Companies here want to grow their businesses, and once the new fish markets in Lerwick and Scalloway open they will try to attract all boats to land more fish here.

But for that to happen we need an adequate transport system to cope with that increase, and we currently do not have that support.

We are lucky in that local transport companies can prioritise goods but sometimes to the detriment of others – the other trailer that gets left quayside instead of the fish.

And if we leave the EU, Shetland Fishermen’s Association also has ideas on how the industry can be supported by government in the future, with the money that would have gone to the EU.

There is no doubt that with salmon production, companies benefit from the free market in the EU for European exports, but a good quantity of salmon is exported to the US too.

Internationally-owned salmon farms are in Scotland because the growing conditions are good and that is unlikely to change.

The industry is however worried about the geographical indications and want these to be recognised post Brexit.

They are also worried about hold ups at ports: again, the markets for their quality product are assured, after some chaos in the interim, if we leave.

Fresh fish and aquaculture products form Shetland’s biggest export.

We can’t afford anything that is going to hinder this valuable industry.
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