Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of making “unfounded claims” of a UK government sell-out of fishermen after they were dismissed by industry leaders in Scotland.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) yesterday endorsed the UK government’s plans to “reassert control” over Scottish waters after a letter from Westminster environment secretary Andrea Leadsom pledged to end the “mutual access” arrangement which allows French and Spanish fishermen to trawl freely in Scotland’s seas.
The letter pledged to ditch elements which are “most unpopular and unworkable for the UK”.
The First Minister seized on sections of the letter which state that ministers have not made any decisions about the extent to which the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) would still apply in UK law after Brexit. Ms Sturgeon took to social media to attack UK ministers after the letter emerged.
She tweeted it was “clear that Tories are planning another fisheries sell-out”.
The SNP leader said: “Letter from UK gov reveals that Tories are planning to sell out Scottish fishing - again.
“As Scottish Tories tell fisherman Brexit means no CFP, letter says UK government considering incorporating CFP rules into domestic law.
“Letter also says UK gov ‘committed to co-operation with other countries over management of shared stocks’.”
But Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) chief executive Bertie Armstrong rejected this interpretation.
He said: “Any reading of this letter in full makes it clear that the UK government is committed to ensuring we exit the CFP and re-assert control of our waters.
“In fact, at our meeting with Ms Leadsom in March she said that we are leaving the EU and we are leaving the CFP. It is evident that the government shares the determination of the entire industry to seize this opportunity to re-generate our coastal communities.”
The SNP has been under pressure from Scotland’s fishing community over its policy to rejoin the EU as an independent state. This would mean re-joining the CFP, although party leaders insist they want to reform the policy.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson called on Ms Sturgeon to withdraw the claims.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s grubby spin operation has been found out - and the SNP’s scaremongering has been exposed for the trash it is,” Ms Davidson said.
“The First Minister’s hands are all over this - she took to social media to whip up unfounded claims about the UK government’s approach to our fishing industry.
“Scotland’s fishing leaders have directly contradicted her to make it clear they are satisfied with the UK government’s approach.
“If Nicola Sturgeon has even a shred of decency, she will retract her absurd claims.”
Ms Davidson was on the campaign trail in Peterhead yesterday where she visited the town’s fish market and also met with local businessmen.
Eilidh Whiteford, the SNP candidate in Banff and Buchan, insisted that the letter from Ms Leadsom shows the Tories are planning to incorporate “key parts” of the CFP into domestic laws well as cooperation with other countries over the management of shared stocks.
Ms Whiteford added: “The letter couldn’t be clearer - for all their rhetoric, the Tories are planning to incorporate key parts of the CFP ‘into domestic law’.
“They are also ‘committed to ongoing co-operation with other countries over the management of shared stocks’.
“That means that they are planning to use Scottish waters and our fishing industry as a Brexit bargaining chip.
“In doing so, they are also taking an enormous gamble with the livelihoods of those fish processors that depend on European exports by jeopardising our position within the single market.”