Vow to fishing industry over Brexit fears
THERE will be no sell-out of the fishing industry over Brexit – that was the bold vow made by Michael Gove, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs when he visited Buckie on Friday.
Mr Gove was in town to meet fishermen in the area, the meeting being held at Buckie RNLI lifeboat station, where the UK's impending exit from the European Union on March 29 and its impact on the Scottish fishing industry were top of the agenda.
For many in the industry, which is strongly pro-Brexit, fears have existed that fishing interests would be considered expendable in the Brexit negotiations, similar to concessions made when Britain joined the then EEC.
Mr Gove pledged that the government would not repeat the errors of 40 years ago.
"We've learned from the errors made in the 1970s, I can reassure the fishing industry that they won't be repeated," he said.
"After Brexit the UK will have the authority to take back our EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone, extending 200-miles from the coast] and this will be a huge chance for our fishing industry to revive.
"It will create a sea of opportunity, with thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of investment in communities. For four decades the fishing industry has been in decline and communities like Buckie have suffered as a result."
Mr Gove went on to hail the north-east for being the "heartland" of Scotland's quality food and drink industries which, he noted, all stood to gain from the opportunities of Brexit.
The secretary of state added that listening to various views and concerns regarding Brexit across the north and north-east had played a role in the party's revival in the area at the last general election, including Douglas Ross claiming the Moray parliamentary seat from the SNP's Angus Robertson.
"It's thanks to MPs like Douglas, who understand local issues and have dirt under their fingernails, that communities like Buckie have very effective champions," he said.
Mr Ross, who accompanied Mr Gove during his visit, said: "One of the most important changes from having an SNP representative is that we can have people like Michael Gove here in Buckie to listen to our local communities.
"As I said during the last general election campaign, it's important Moray has access to the heart of government."
One of the issues raised during the meeting, by Banff-based skipper of the Reliant II John Clark, raised concerns regarding a fair and universal enforcement of fishing regulations, something he claimed was not the case at present.
He said: "Marine Scotland are only there to police Scottish boats, they're not interested in foreign boats."
Replying, Mr Gove said: "Once we're out [of the EU] we'll be back in control of our fishing grounds.
"We'll have the resources in place if needed to stop these boats."
Mr Gove also met with farmers in Keith prior to visiting Buckie to hear views and concerns from the agricultural sector in the area.