SCOTLAND, UK - Key aspects of the EU's delicately balanced and carefully negotiated international fisheries framework would be thrown into "disarray" without an independent Scotland as an EU member, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said.
Speaking ahead of crucial international fishing talks being held in Edinburgh this week, Mr Lochhead highlighted how, post-independence, Scotland’s role as a leading fishing nation will be crucial to the rest of the EU.
The talks will cover a wide range of issues, including arrangements for sharing fish stocks between the EU and Norway and attempts to reach agreement on a long-standing international dispute about the North East Atlantic mackerel stock, Scotland’s (and the EU's) most valuable fishery.
Mr Lochhead said: “Fishing is synonymous with Scotland and the industry is at the heart of our coastal communities the length and breadth of the country.
“Scotland has around 13 per cent of European waters - more than double that of the rest of the UK and the second largest in the EU. We are a pivotal nation in these talks and they illustrate how we are at the heart of an intricate set of arrangements involving some 27 countries within and beyond the EU, developed over many decades.
“As a major fishing nation, it is therefore overwhelmingly in the interests of the European Union for Scotland to make a smooth transition to continued EU membership as an independent Member State during the eighteen months between the referendum and independence in 2016.
"The EU has a complicated and delicate set of arrangements for brokering fishing opportunities and it is in everyone’s interests for these to continue without disruption following a vote for independence. The EU also negotiates with non-EU countries and if Scotland was not in the EU then these arrangements would fall apart. So removing Scotland from this complex set of arrangements would spell disarray for other countries’ fishing industries - throwing into serious question other nations' access to waters they have long been able to fish. Put simply, the house of cards would be quick to collapse if Scotland were removed.
“Therefore, the common-sense position, backed up by a succession of experts – including in the last few days by former Czech President Vaclav Klaus and leading French Senator Mme Joelle Garriaud-Maylam - is that Scotland will negotiate the specific terms of its continuing membership of the EU between a vote for independence and Scotland becoming independent in March 2016. Any other outcome would give 27 countries a massive and costly headache as it would leave vital and long-established fishing agreements ship-wrecked. The EU needs a smooth transition and any other approach would backfire.
“Once Scotland has a seat at the top table in Europe, we will better represent and defend our fishermen and seek further reform of fishing policy. Anyone who suggests that Scotland will not be immediately welcomed is ignoring the political and economic realities.”
TheFishSite News Desk