Clyde Fishing Ban: SNP accused of 'bowing to the demands' of the Greens

A Scottish Government minister feared reconsidering a fishing ban would send “the wrong signal” to the Scottish Green Party, official emails reveal.

It is understood the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon, did “not feel comfortable” with plans to review a fishing ban in the Firth of Clyde due to the Bute House Agreement.

It comes after one creel fisherman told Scotland on Sunday he is being “driven into poverty” alongside other crews as a result of the 11-week targeted cod ban – prohibiting all fishing activity where cod can spawn.

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Mairi Gougeon, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs feared reconsidering a fishing ban would send “the wrong signal” to the Scottish Green Party, official emails reveal  (Picture: Andrew Parsons/PA).

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Ms Gougeon previously apologised for the “short-term costs” of the fishing ban which came into effect last month and did not include creel vessels as an exemption.

She accepted the process around the closure had been “far from ideal” yet, refused to offer financial support to fishermen impacted.

In an email exchange with the Scottish Government’s SSI (Scottish Statutory Instrument) unit and Marine Scotland, it appears Ms Gougeon reconsiders exemptions to the ban based on the Green agreement.

An email sent on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs dated December 2, 2021, reads: “Following your call with Ms Gougeon this morning, she has been reflecting on it and is not feeling comfortable with the position arrived at.

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It comes after one creel fisherman told The Scotsman he is being “driven into poverty” alongside other fishermen as a result of the 11-week targeted cod ban – prohibiting all fishing activity where cod can spawn. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

"She is concerned that given our arrangement with the Scottish Green Party that this sends the wrong signal.”

It is not clear what was discussed on the call, however, the email was titled Submission Clyde Cod Spawning Closure SSI.

During a Rural Affairs committee last week, Ms Gougeon denied “bowing down” to the Greens on going ahead with an outright ban.

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Yet, another email sent on behalf of Lorna Slater on December 23 shows the Scottish Green Co-leader’s involvement with signing off the ban.

Sent to recipients including Allan Gibb, head of sea fisheries policy at Marine Scotland and Ms Gougeon, the email states Ms Slater “notes this submission for her part and appreciates the hard work that has gone into this in a very short period of time and commented that she is content, for her part, subject to Ms Gougeon’s views, that Option 1 is consistent with the Bute House agreement”.

Rachael Hamilton, Scottish Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary, said SNP ministers have “bowed to the demands” of the Greens.

She added: “Fishermen who have lost their livelihoods will be absolutely dismayed that SNP ministers only took this decision after reflecting on their agreement with the Greens.

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“They shamefully put the interests of their party ahead of the interests of fishermen on the Clyde.”

Measures to make Scotland a “world-leader” in managing fisheries stocks have been published for consultation.

However, Open Seas was “alarmed” by future catching proposals which include allowing discarding of under-size fish.

Phil Taylor from the organisation said: “This move would constitute dangerous deregulation and actually set Scotland far behind many other countries.

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"The wasteful practice of discarding, throwing small, juvenile dead fish caught by trawl nets back into the sea, has contributed to the collapse of some fish populations and was made illegal in 2019 as part of reforms to unpopular EU fishing laws in 2013.”

He added the move would be “a giant leap backwards” and has called for policy to be amended to “halt biodiversity loss in Scotland’s seas”.

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