Brexit: Scottish fishing was sold out by UK in 1973 and the Tories have done it again – Kenny MacAskill

The Tories will pay a heavy price for their duplicity on fishing as its seared in the Scottish soul.

Exports of fresh fish and seafood to the European Union have been severely disrupted by delays since the end of the Brexit transition period (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
Exports of fresh fish and seafood to the European Union have been severely disrupted by delays since the end of the Brexit transition period (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Recorded in song and prose, it’s retained in the collective memory. Resonating and having poignancy with many who neither worked there nor even had a family member who did. But its importance and the hardship endured are known and felt by almost all.

It’s similar in many ways to mining. That industry’s now long gone but the memory and pride remain. Attacking it is an assault upon the collective soul even if some is mythology. Few after all would wish a return to it but it's part of who we are.

Fishing of course still exists even if in a smaller scale than the past. Passing Stornoway Harbour still grieves me when I recall the extent of the fleet from my boyhood summers. Tales of even grander fleets from generations before are still vividly known.

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Communities the length and breadth of the country are likewise. Fishing was never simply in the Highlands and Islands or the north-east but upwards and along every coastline from Annan on the west and Eyemouth on the east. It’s changed and adapted. The boats may be fewer, but the processing sector has grown.

New products, inshore and shellfish, are pursued not just “the shoals of herring". Tens of thousands of jobs and even the viability of some communities are threatened. Boats still go out from several parts my own constituency, even if the famed “Fisherrow Fishwives” are no more.

So, it matters but again the Tories are selling it out. The frankly inane comments by Jacob Rees-Mogg of supposedly joyous British fish after Brexit ring hollow with boats tied up and businesses facing ruin. His behaviour, as ever, isn’t in the least funny and most certainly’s totally contemptuous of Scotland.

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The brazen cheek by Dominic Raab in suggesting that it was always known that there would be “teething” issues, denies the reality and critical nature of what’s occurred. This isn’t teething but potentially terminal for some. Besides, if they knew it were coming, why didn’t they prepare or at least properly compensate?

It’s ever been thus even if the Tories did their best to pass the blame but this time it’ll stick. The industry was sold out when the UK joined the EEC in 1973.

I have family members who loathed the EEC and then the EU as a result. Spanish ships clearing sea lochs – that were fished for millennia – forever. I’ve seen Canadian flags adorn boats in Ullapool in homage to a country seen as fighting back against EU abuse.

But the fault wasn’t primarily with the EEC but with British negotiations in which Scottish fishing was seen as peripheral. Back then they managed to pass the buck but not now.

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It was the UK that sold the industry out then, as they do now. But even the deep-sea sector knows who’s to blame this time. Responsibility rests with the Tories and their treachery won’t be forgiven.

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