Fishing Party's plea to veteran

A FORMER Conservative MP has been approached by the fledgling Fishing Party to stand as a candidate in the Scottish parliamentary elections, The Scotsman can reveal.

Sir Albert McQuarrie, who was Tory MP for Banff and Buchan until 1987, admitted yesterday that he was tempted to take up the offer to re-enter the political fray as a champion of the fishing industry.

But the veteran politician, who is honorary president of the Banff and Buchan Conservative and Unionist Association, said he had to turn down the request on the grounds of age. He is 85.

Sir Albert will, however, be in the Buchan fishing port of Peterhead today to pledge his support at the official launch of the new force in Scottish politics.

An unrepentant Sir Albert said: "I was asked by the party to stand as a candidate and, had I been a little bit younger, I would have stood in a minute - no question about it.

"All my political life I fought for the fishermen and I am not going back on the fishermen now.

"And, if I am criticised by the Conservative Party of which I am strong member and a member of their Banff and Buchan executive, then I have to stand up to that.

"I am a man of considerable principle and I support the fishermen wholeheartedly in what they are doing."

Sir Albert said: "It is clear that the best way in which the industry can win a better deal is to have a proper voice in the Scottish Parliament.

"I am still a Conservative, but there are times when there is a need for a voice elsewhere. And, if the public up in Banff and Buchan - the largest fishing constituency in Europe which I was proud to represent in my time - wish to show their commitment to their industry then so be it.

"I think the Fishing Party could have a considerable impact on the May elections. The way that the industry has been treated has been diabolical. They have been badly let down by the government and something has to be done about it."

The Fishing Party, formed by disgruntled skippers and other industry leaders furious at what they regard as the political betrayal of their industry, will be aimed at putting the plight of Scotland’s crisis-torn fishing industry at the heart of the debate in the run up to May's elections.

As The Scotsman revealed in January, the new Fishing Party will be pinning their hopes on having up to three MSPs elected to Holyrood under the list system. But it is understood that the Party intends to field candidates in a number of constituencies in the north-east, as well as other fishery-dominated constituencies elsewhere in Scotland.

Party leaders have calculated that as few as 15,000 votes in the north-east alone could guarantee the party a regional list MSP in the Scottish Parliament.

The convener of the new party is George Geddes, a Peterhead skipper and a vice-chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association.

He said: "The Party will not be confined solely to the north-east and there will be candidates elsewhere in Scotland.

"It is our plan to field candidates from the catching, processing and associated industries. It will not be dominated at all by catchers or processors and could include candidates who, while not directly connected with the industry, have the best interests of the industry at heart."

Mr Geddes said: "I am convinced the people of Scotland want a fishing industry. But I don’t think the European Union want a Scottish fishing industry and I don’t believe the Scottish Executive want a fishing industry - certainly not here in Scotland."

And he continued: "I think the formation of the party will give the people of Scotland something they have never had before - the opportunity to put someone into the Parliament who will bring with them a breath of fresh air. And I think Parliament sorely needs that.

"I also think that the Parliament needs MSPs who come from the industry and have the interests of the industry at heart without having any political connections. And I think that can only benefit the main parties as well as the fishing industry."