The recent interest in land reform in Scotland has left fishermen in the west of Scotland confused over the diverging attitudes from the Scottish Government towards terrestrial and marine matters.
The land reform minister Aileen McLeod has said: “Through the Land Reform Bill we want to ensure that future generations have access to land required to promote business and economic growth and to provide access to good quality, affordable food, energy and housing.”
This is a laudable attitude that recognises the value of, amongst other things, local food production and economic growth.
Strangely, this is contrary to the view taken by Marine Scotland where recent marine protected area management will likely see the closure of significant fishing grounds close to what Scottish Government frequently refers to as “fragile fishing communities”.
The grounds that are to be shut down are on the doorstep of the communities of Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh, Gairloch and Ullapool, to name but a few, and have significant economic value to West Coast fishermen and indeed fishermen throughout Scotland.
The original reason behind marine protected areas was to preserve marine features in compliance with national and international obligations and was something that the Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association supported.
It has, however, become another tool for Marine Scotland to manage mobile fisheries and to appease the environmental lobby since the ultimate management has gone far beyond that which even Marine Scotland suggested in its own consultation documents.
Whatever the realities of land reform turn out to be – and there are those from both sides of the argument who will no doubt have passionate views – we could not criticise the message that Aileen McLeod is promoting.
It shows the recognition within Scottish Government that communities need to work the ground for the future benefit of Scotland’s prosperity and to ensure food security.
What a pity that Marine Scotland does not share this view in marine matters.
Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association