SNP fury as Scotland given ‘slap in face’ during EU fishing talks

Nicola Sturgeon: Expert questions 'integrity'

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s success in securing Brexit at the end of last month raised significant challenges for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her independence bid. There are still questions over which currency an independent Scotland would use, its significant deficit and the difficulties of having a hard border with the rest of the UK, which would impact 60 percent of Scotland’s trade. Moreover, Scotland would likely not be able to obtain concessions the UK had while within the EU, such as less onerous VAT rules or exemption from the Schengen Agreement.

The country would also be expected to rejoin the Common Fisheries Policy – a system which boosted the pro-Brexit vote in Scottish fishing areas.

As uncertainty over the future of the union continues, a 2013 BBC report has resurfaced, which reveals how the SNP once fought Brussels over their fishing rights.

Just under seven years ago, then-Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead furiously hit out at the UK Government, claiming that sending a Conservative peer to represent Scottish fishermen at EU talks was a “slap in the face” for Scotland.

Speaking from Brussels, Mr Lochhead told BBC the UK Government had agreed in 2010 that, when circumstances were appropriate, Scotland could lead at European fishing talks when the subjects up for discussion were primarily Scottish.

He added: “Yet here we are in a situation today where the UK secretary of state is in Brussels but she thinks she has got other things she wants to do other than attending the council.

“So she has drafted in Rupert Ponsonby, the seventh Baron de Mauley, from the House of Lords to represent the UK even although I am here.

“I think that is a bit of a snub for Scotland and a slap in the face.

“I have now got to sit down with Lord de Mauley and brief him on what’s important for Scotland, explain to him the background, the circumstances.

“I have to hope he’ll take that on board as he leads these talks.”

He also pointed out that Scottish boats in 2012 landed 95 percent of the quotas that would have been discussed at the Brussels talks, adding: “You couldn’t have a more Scottish issue.

“The Scottish minister is here, the circumstances are very appropriate and yet the UK government is taking this ridiculous decision to draft in an unelected member of the House of Lords.

“Surely I am much better qualified to sit at the top table and discuss those issues than a minister who has got no fisheries experience whatsoever.”

In a letter sent to then Prime Minister David Cameron, former SNP leader Alex Salmond wrote it would be have been “travesty” and “a recipe for further failure in Europe” if the industry was represented by Lord de Mauley rather than Mr Lochhead.

Responding to Mr Salmond’s letter, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The Government takes its responsibility to act for all parts of the UK extremely seriously.

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“Our ministers put our country’s interests first and foremost in all they do.

“We have consistently and successfully worked with the Scottish government to argue for and to secure the best deals for our fishing industry.

“Their hand is strengthened by being part of the UK.”

And former Conservative MEP Ian Duncan claimed he was “frustrated by the ongoing posturing” of the SNP over fishing.

Mr Duncan told BBC: “Mr Lochhead is part of the UK delegation attending the fisheries council today [November 10, 2014].

“Following that council meeting, he will be attending a meeting with the incoming fisheries commissioner Karmena Vella.

“Mr Lochhead is disingenuous to suggest that he has no real influence.

“It is Mr Lochhead’s responsibility to ensure that the UK’s final negotiating position is as Scottish as it can be, nobody else’s.”

In an interview with, Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, claimed that despite Britain fighting tooth and tail to protect its waters in the Brexit talks, it could all soon go down the drain if Scotland becomes independent.

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Professor Waters said: “There is a great irony in the Westminster government fighting to defend fishing rights in waters that we are largely gonna end up giving back to the Scots when they pursue independence.

“This is exactly what we have been doing.

“It is very gracious of us to take this fight on, because if we conceded them all and the Scots go independent, that will be their problem.

“It would be tiny Scotland versus Brussels, and not small Britain versus Brussels.”

It is not exactly clear how UK waters will be divided after a second Scottish independence referendum.

Ahead of the first plebiscite in 2014, Holyrood published a report titled ‘Scotland’s Future and Scottish Fisheries’.

The report reads: “Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will enter into negotiations with the rest of the UK and with the EU institutions to fully define our fishing rights and other key issues.

“At present, Scotland’s fishing opportunities are provided for in a concordat among the UK nations, which gives Scotland a share of UK quotas.

“It will be in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to agree an appropriate and fair set of final allocations so that the normal fishing practices of each nation can continue unaffected.”

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