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Commercial Fishing



Scots say in quota and effort limits. Scottish Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government (cabinet minister Michael Gove) to request a number of amendments to the UK Fisheries Bill, regarding quota and effort limits, seafood levies, and other matters.

The letter reads:

Dear Michael

I wanted to write to set out our position on the UK Fisheries Bill. Notwithstanding the fact the final version of the Bill was only formally shared with the Scottish Ministers the day before it was laid – a matter which I do not regard as acceptable – I wish to place on record my gratitude to your officials for their constructive engagement with my officials on the development of the above Bill, and the broadly positive outcomes produced as a result.

As you know from previous engagement between our Governments, at both Ministerial and official level, however, there are a number of aspects of the Bill where the Scottish Government has unresolved concerns and where, as a result, we consider that amendments to the Bill are required.

I have therefore enclosed with this letter the text of amendments to the Bill which we would wish to see, along with short explanatory notes. An overview of these amendments is as follows:

As you will be aware, there is one clause of the Bill – Clause 18, which relates to the determination of quota and effort limits – where our respective officials have been unable to reach a shared view as to whether the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament is needed or not. While fully respecting the positions that you and your officials have advanced, we have reached a different conclusion and, given the obvious implications of this clause for fisheries management, I remain unambiguously of the view that the Scottish Parliament’s legislative consent is required and that this clause, as drafted, will have an unacceptable impact on the existing powers of Scottish Ministers. Therefore, to ensure that devolved competence is respected, I would ask that an amendment be made to Clause 18 to provide that any decisions made under Clause 18, insofar as they relate to Scotland, should only be taken with the consent of the Scottish Ministers.

There are also substantive omissions from the bill concerning aspects which, you will recall, I have raised a number of times in meetings, calls and correspondence.

It is the long-held view of the Scottish Government that the existing seafish levy is not fit for purpose, providing an inadequate level of support to the sector in Scotland and resulting in insufficient marketing and promotion of Scottish seafood. I am therefore proposing a two-part amendment to deliver the following broad outcomes:

  1. i) to give the Sea Fish Industry Authority (“Seafish”) greater flexibility to exercise its functions separately and differently in different parts of the UK, in relation to the sea fish industry, sea fish and sea fish products landed or trans-shipped in those different parts. This part would also require Seafish to report how income received from the levies it imposes has been applied in respect of each part of the United Kingdom; and
  2. ii) to effectively devolve control of the Scottish aspects of levies imposed by Seafish to the Scottish Ministers to ensure inter alia that levies imposed in relation to fish or fish products landed in Scotland, or trans-shipped in Scottish waters, require confirmation by the Scottish Ministers, and that Scottish Ministers may by order increase the rate of such levies.

I also continue to believe that, as I have mentioned in our previous ministerial meetings, this Bill should be used as a vehicle for the UK Government to honour promises made during the EU referendum campaign regarding future funding – that all lost funding would be at least replaced so as to ensure there is “no detriment” to the Devolved Administrations.

To ensure that promise is delivered, I am therefore proposing an amendment to insert a new clause after clause 30 to require the Secretary of State to make available to the Scottish Ministers sums which are at least equivalent to the sums made available to the Scottish Ministers under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) in the year prior to Exit Day. Such an amendment would ensure that the vital contribution made by EMFF to supporting sustainable growth in Scottish fisheries and aquaculture, inland waters, the seafood supply chain, conservation of the marine environment and growth and jobs in coastal communities will be maintained.

I trust that you will urgently act on these proposals and introduce appropriate UK Government amendments.

I am also aware that our officials are working together to identify and deliver a number of other UK Government amendments for policy or technical reasons. These include:

  • amendments to Clause 1 of the Bill to ensure aquaculture is appropriately incorporated into the drafting of the joint fisheries objectives;
  • providing Scottish Ministers with a power equivalent to that given to the Secretary of State by clause 28 of the Bill to provide financial assistance (grants or loans) to the fisheries, recreational fishing and aquaculture sectors;
  • providing Scottish Ministers with a power equivalent to that given to the Secretary of State by clause 29 of the Bill to make regulations to impose charges in respect of the operation of relevant marine functions relating to fishing quotas, the lawful operation of commercial fish and aquaculture activities, the registration of buyers and sellers of first-sale fish, and catch certificates for the import/export of fish;
  • providing Scottish Ministers with a power, equivalent to the power given to the
    Secretary of State under clause 31 of the Bill, to amend and replace retained EU law
    for fisheries and aquaculture;
  • consequential amendments to secondary legislation relating to licensing;
  • an amendment to the Scotland Act 1998 to adjust the definition of “Scotland” in that Act to ensure that the competence of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers over the Scottish Zone post-EU exit is retained; and
  • minor technical amendments to the marine environment powers included in the Bill.

I welcome the ongoing constructive engagement between our officials to deliver these government amendments and I understand my officials have undertaken to provide your officials with whatever assistance they require to ensure that these amendments can be readied for tabling. I hope this collaboration can also extend to the other matters discussed at the outset of this letter.

If I or Scottish Government officials can assist further in that regard, please do not hesitate to involve us.