THE Scottish Government will demand the introduction of a new work permit system so Scotland's fishing industry can still benefit from skilled EU workers after Brexit, MSPs were told today.
Fergus Ewing, the Rural Economy Secretary, said Brexit made for "challenging times" for fishing communities, and for the families whose livelihoods depend on fishing "either far out at sea, in inshore waters or onshore in processing and other supply chain industries".
He said that while he was clear that "Scotland's rich fishing grounds should not be used as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations", he would be pressing for "a new work permit system" to ensure skilled labour from the EU can still come to Scotland to work. The system would also make it easier to crack down on cases of exploitation in the fishing workforce.
Launching a discussion paper on the future management of Scotland's fisheries in Holyrood, he said the government would continue to use Total Allowance Catch to manage fish stocks and may consider introducing quotas for shellfish. However, if there was additional quota in the future, his priority would be to "incentivise new entrants - to increase the number of people involved in fishing and develop additional inshore activity which supports the economic growth of coastal communities."
Conservative MSP, Peter Chapman, said he endorsed Mr Ewing's words that Scotland's access would not be traded away and welcomed the document. But he added: "The document can only come into effect if we leave the EU in a managed manner. Unless we leave none of the initiatives will take place and we will remain in the hated Common Fisheries Policy, so does he support the only deal on the table and will he encourage his SNP MPs to vote for Theresa May's deal tonight?"
Mr Ewing pointed to the financial benefits Scotland had received from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and said: "I welcome the support he's given for these measures, but we still believe that the proposals on offer from the Prime Minister raise serious questions for fishing communities. There's been so many benefits from the EMFF for the fishing communities in Scotland but there's no clarity on what would replace that other than it's to be called a shared prosperity fund."
He added: "The discussion paper set out this government's proposals to manage Scotland's fisheries in the future within current devolved responsibilities. Moreover I expect the UK government to deliver on its promises that our competence will only increase over time with enhance responsibilities. I will continue to fight for that to happen... and I hope this Parliament supports our endeavours in that regard."