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Stevenson slams UK government 'utter incompetence' over Brexit fisheries deal

By Alan Beresford

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THE UK's Brexit has been slammed as “extremely disappointing” by a Scottish fishing industry leader.

Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) chief executive described the deal, which was dramatically agreed on Christmas Eve, as falling "far short of what the UK government had committed” to the industry when she gave evidence to Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee.

Reiterating many points she made after the deal was clinched, Ms Macdonald told the committee that PM Boris Johnson’s claims on a visit to Scotland in January that there would be a 25 per cent increase in overall quota was “misleading” and “for some of these species, we will have less fishing opportunity than we had previously” and will “leave us worse off.”

Asked whether the fishing industry feels “betrayed” by the UK government, she said “we feel very badly let down. We feel that the government made repeated commitments and promises to the industry, and these were not met."

Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Seafood Association, Jimmy Buchan warned that "we've ended up with the worst of the worst of the worst" and said the UK government's compensation scheme does not go far enough.

Local MSP and committee member Stewart Stevenson said: “This was a significant intervention from fishing chiefs, who have every right to be livid about the broken promises, utter incompetence and outright lies coming from the very heart of Boris Johnson's government.

"Since the EU referendum, the Tories have made exaggerated promises that they knew they couldn’t keep, and shown complete contempt towards our vital fishing industry.

“It's clear that the Tory Brexiteers never had any intention of keeping their word to fishermen - they've betrayed a vital part of our economy, and an industry which is crucial to the livelihoods of communities and families across the country.

“For over 40 years, Westminster has treated Scotland’s fishing industry as an irrelevance and a pawn to be traded away, and that doesn’t look likely to change any time soon.

“The Tories simply can’t be trusted when it comes to standing up for our interests. The only way to escape the Tory Brexit disaster, protect Scotland's interests and our place in Europe is to become an independent country."

However, North-east Conservative MSP Peter Chapman said that the SNP had "jeopardised around 600,000 Scottish jobs" by voting against the Brexit deal at the tail end of last year.

He continued: "This is another desperate attempt by Stewart Stevenson to use fishermen instead of helping them.

"Let’s not forget it was his MP colleagues who voted for a no deal Brexit, which would have plunged our fishing industry into chaos.

"They voted against every deal with the EU, and then tried to halt the UK internal market in January.

"That would have jeopardised around 600,000 Scottish jobs which rely on trade within Britain – every fishing job along with it.

"Finally, and it's telling how this is never mentioned, the SNP’s policy is to put us back in the CFP, with no negotiating leverage against the EU, along with a huge deficit, billions in debt, no central bank and no clear currency policy, which the EU would recoil from.

"The skippers know that, the SNP know that, and the Nationalists realise that their spinning is not fooling anyone."

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