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The SNP knows how badly betrayed our fishing communities have been by successive Labour and Tory Governments in London, and by Brussels mismanagement of the CFP. The Tory sell-out of Scotlandʼs "expendable" fishing industry in the 1970ʼs is etched on the collective memory of our coastal and island communities. Thirty years on, the fleet is a shadow of its former self, thanks to compulsory scrapping of vessels, with remaining crews struggling due to quota cuts and limited days at sea. The SNPʼs warnings have proved sadly prophetic.
The EU Fisheries Commissioner, Joe Borg, came to Scotland in October for meetings with MEPs, the Scottish Executive and Scottish fishing industry representatives. His arrival coincided with news headlines of yet another threat of a complete ban on cod fishing. These scare tactics are what weʼve come to expect in the run up to the annual pantomime of Decemberʼs quota meetings, rendering Scotland grateful for whatever crumbs ultimately fall from the Fisheries Council table.
This yearʼs threat is particularly ironic as it admits the failure of the EUʼs Cod Recovery Plan, which had been used as justification for the drastic cuts in fishing effort over recent years.
So, how will Joe Borg react to this? Can we expect a more receptive pair of ears to those of his predecessor, Franz Fischler? Will a man from the island nation of Malta understand Scotlandʼs coastal communities better than Fischler, who, from land-locked Austria, engineered much of the destruction of the Scottish fleet? We wonʼt know the answer until Borg makes his detailed proposals to Decemberʼs Fisheries Council.
Whatever the Commission eventually recommends, final decisions will be made by Ministers at the Fisheries Council. A meeting from which Scotland is largely excluded, and where Scotlandʼs Minister has no vote. Once again, horse-trading between EU ministers will determine the future of Scotlandʼs fishing communities - with London calling the shots.
Scotland has less influence in EU fisheries policy than does Malta, the smallest EU member State. Joe Borg rose through the ranks of a political party set up in the 19th century to win Maltese independence from Britain, which it achieved in 1964. As Foreign Minister, he negotiated Maltaʼs entry to the EU. His country with 400,000 people has more influence than Scotlandʼs 5million. Borg understands the importance to his country of independence in
At next yearʼs Scottish elections, we must make a substantial advance towards independence for Scotland, so that we too can exercise real power and influence in Europe and the wider international community.