Clyde fishing ban: Scottish Government refuses financial support for fishermen unable to work for three months

The Scottish Government has refused to offer financial support for fishermen left without an income for three months following a ban as a fisherman says he is being “driven into poverty”.

The news comes after an 11-week targeted cod ban – prohibiting all fishing activity where cod can spawn in the Firth of Clyde – came into place on February 14.

Creel fishermen told The Scotsman how they were left “devastated” by the ban as they were unable to move their boats without facing safety risks and “unaffordable” costs, leaving them to close their businesses for three months.

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Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon confirmed, in line with policy around similar management measures, including the National Cod Avoidance Plan and Marine Protected Areas, the Government was not considering any additional financial support schemes specifically related to this closure.

Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, said the Scottish Government is not considering any additional financial support schemes related to the cod-spawning ban for fishermen (Photo: Craig Stephen).

Speaking at the rural affairs committee on Wednesday, Ms Gougeon apologised for the “short-term costs” the ban had on fishers.

She told the committee: “I accept that the process around this closure has been far from ideal and I do sincerely apologise for that.

"Our approach on this occasion has fallen short of our co-management principles and practice. It has been been a really complex issue to balance and we will ensure that we learn the lessons from how this closure has been managed.”

The minister said adapting the measures to exclude any exemptions such as creel fishing this year was the “right decision” to protect spawning cod based on “the best available scientific evidence”. However, scientists and academics have claimed there is “no evidence” creel fishing impacts cod spawning.

The Government claims the ban was implemented to take into account disturbance to cod, including up to within 10m of the seabed.

Paul McAllister, a creel fishermen impacted by the ban based at Campbeltown Harbour, said he “could not put into words” how much Ms Gougeon and the Government has failed the creeling community.

He said the decisions taken by the Government were “driving him into poverty”.

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Mr McAllister wrote to Ms Gougeon: “To call 11 weeks a short period when you are self-employed shows just how detached you are from working-class people such as myself.”

He also questioned the minister on why the Government had removed its evidence on creels impacting spawning cod from its website.

Mr McAllister added: “If you could give an explanation for this, I’d appreciate that since this is what you are basing your decisions on.”

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Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton brought forward a motion to annul the ban. However, this was rejected with five votes opposed, two in favour and two abstaining.

Members decided a more collaborative approach with fishing communities was needed in future decisions.

Ms Hamilton said: “I believe the process is utterly botched and there’s a complete lack of evidence and lack of engagement.

"At a time when living costs are rising, we cannot abandon our fishing communities.

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“I’m really disappointed that some colleagues don’t consider this seriously enough.

"I think this is a spineless approach from SNP backbenchers, particularly from [MSP] Jenni Minto who called for compensation for her constituents in January.”

A stocktake meeting will be held with stakeholders after the closure period to "reflect upon its [the ban’s] effectiveness and impacts”, according to the Government.

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