Fishing industry warns of 'increasingly hostile environment' amid SNP/Green deal criticism

The SNP/Green deal has been attacked by the Scottish Fishing FederationThe SNP/Green deal has been attacked by the Scottish Fishing Federation
The SNP/Green deal has been attacked by the Scottish Fishing Federation
The fishing industry has attacked the cooperation deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, claiming it will create an “increasingly hostile environment” for the industry.

In a letter sent to rural affairs and islands cabinet secretary, Mairi Gougeon and net zero cabinet secretary, Michael Matheson, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation criticised the “astonishing omission” of fishing as food production from the deal.

Chief executive of the federation, Elspeth Macdonald, also warned the growth of offshore wind and other marine-based renewable energy “threatens” the future of the fishing industry.

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The letter comes as the Scottish Conservatives confirmed they would vote against the appointment of Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater into junior ministerial roles.

Douglas Ross’ party argues that allowing the Greens to continue to have a guaranteed question at First Minister’s Questions and receive additional funding as an opposition party is not compatible with them joining government with the SNP.

Holyrood is set to debate the appointment of the two Green MSPs to government on Tuesday following a statement to parliament about the deal from Nicola Sturgeon.

The fishing industry is among the first sectors to expressly criticise the detail of the deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens since it was revealed to the public over a week ago.

Still feeling the pain caused by a “hugely disappointing Brexit settlement”, the fishermen’s federation said the deal was “intent on restricting, not assisting, our sector”.

The letter adds: “It is an astonishing omission that the part of the policy cooperation document dealing with fishing makes not one single reference to fishing being part of Scotland’s food production – indeed part of our national food security.

"There is nothing in the agreement between the parties that recognises or seems to value what our sector is doing, or sets out any support for it. Instead, we have a litany of restrictions proposed as to where and how we can fish, without any evidence presented as to why these highly restrictive measures are needed.”

It goes on to urge the government to consult with the fishing sector around the growth of offshore wind and other marine renewable energy.

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Stating that growth in this area “will clearly be key”, the federation warns unrestricted growth “threatens further” the ability to catch fish.

It states: “Without careful, equitable and well considered marine planning and decision making, this threatens further our sector’s ability to catch fish safely and efficiently.

"The wind blows over all of the sea, but fish are not uniformly distributed. We urge government to commit to ensuring that the growth of the offshore renewables industry does not come at a cost to ours.”

The letter concludes: “We need a government that respects and values what we can do to meet these future challenges and supports us in our endeavours, not one that seems intent on creating an increasingly hostile environment for this sector that contributes so much not just to coastal Scotland, but more widely”A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the vital role of fish as a food source and the significance of the industry to rural communities, as well as the need to safeguard our marine environment for future generations to enjoy and make a living from.

“The Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Group commits to working together in a constructive and collaborative way. The sustainable development of the fishing industry will be a key part of that.”Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s the Sunday Show, Patrick Harvie criticised attacks by “far-right newspapers” of the deal, labelling former BBC stalwart Andrew Neil “extreme hard-right” following criticism the party are “eco-zealot Marxists”.

The co-leader was also asked whether it was a decision by the Scottish Greens or by the SNP to turn down full cabinet secretary jobs as part of the cooperation deal.

The Green politician said that due to the deal falling short of a full coalition and a reticence to be bound by full collective responsibility, the decision had been made to take junior minister roles instead.

He said: “It’s a little bit more nuanced than a coalition and it does mean that we didn’t feel that could take complete collective cabinet responsibility.

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"And I think it would be reasonable from the government’s point of view that anyone who is a full member of the cabinet is fully signed up to collective responsibility.”

He added: "We’ve always been far more focused on what is the government going to do differently as a result of this cooperation agreement, rather that whose name is on which ministerial door.

"But as it became clear that there really wasn’t scope for a full coalition because we had significant differences on a number of issues, we weren’t willing to accept the idea of complete collective responsibility, I think it would be appropriate not take full cabinet positions.”

Both Ms Slater and Mr Harvie will be approved as ministers in Holyrood this week, but will face opposition from the Scottish Conservatives.

Stephen Kerr, the party’s chief whip, said the Tories would oppose the move and the “coalition” as it would weaken the Scottish Parliament if the Greens retained privileges given to opposition parties.

He said: “We cannot accept the Greens’ ludicrous attempt to game the system by being in government and opposition at the same time. This nationalist deal is a coalition, according to the Greens’ own constitution. It will see the Greens join the government and be bound by agreement to support the SNP in votes.

“The Greens cannot have their cake and eat it. The Scottish Parliament will be weakened if they are allowed to hold government office and retain the rights of opposition parties, including receiving additional funds and a key position at First Minister’s Questions."

Labelling the Scottish Greens as "extremist”, Mr Kerr said the party was a “danger” to Scotland.

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He said: “As we deliver our recovery, we also cannot endorse extreme Scottish Government ministers who would recklessly risk jobs and businesses. Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater freely admit that they want to hold back our economy. They have said themselves they are against ‘endless economic growth’.

“The extremist Greens are not fit for office. They’re a danger to Scotland’s economic recovery with their anti-jobs, anti-business ideological agenda. Only the Scottish Conservatives will stand up to the serious economic threat posed by this nationalist coalition of chaos.”

The decision as to whether the Scottish Greens will continue to have a guaranteed question at FMQs or receive opposition funding will be decided by the presiding officer, former Green MSP Alison Johnstone.

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