Fishing can become Scotland’s fastest growing economic sector within ten years if the UK leaves the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) on schedule, the incoming head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has said.
Elspeth Macdonald said the doubling in the size of the British catch after Brexit, once the UK has sole jurisdiction over its coastal waters, would spark a boom in Scotland’s fishing communities supporting up to 5,000 new jobs.
But she warned the UK Government not to trade away continued access for European fishing vessels as part of wider trade talks with the EU, which she said would be a “betrayal”.
Fishermen are insisting on an exit from the CFP by the end of 2020, when a post-Brexit transition phase is scheduled to come to an end - if the UK leaves the EU with a deal.
Ms Macdonald said remaining under EU fishing rules for any longer would be “intolerable” for the industry.
She acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit on 31 October would cause disruption to the industry, particularly to fish processors who sell their products to Europe, but said the industry would adapt and find new markets.
“Our ambition is for this to be the fastest growing sector of the Scottish economy over the next decade,” she said.
“To do that, we will require an uplift in quota in the short term upon leaving the Common Fisheries Policy.
“But that has to be coupled with a long-term blueprint for growth so that we can seize the opportunities that life outside the CFP presents.”
Ms Macdonald added: “We sincerely hope that the UK government resists any temptation to reach a backroom deal that erodes in any way these fundamental tenets, whatever the nature of any agreement that is reached or otherwise.
“This would be regarded within the industry as a betrayal of previous and current political promises.
“Similarly, any extension of the present CFP arrangements beyond the current endpoint for an implementation period would be intolerable, given the nature and timing of international fisheries negotiations.
“The certainty that the catching sector craves is best delivered in the shortest timescale possible, in order that the UK regains control of access to our waters and fishing opportunities.”