Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment
To help our fishing communities thrive and to achieve sustainable fisheries, the long overdue review of the Common Fisheries Policy must deliver for Scotland. The European Union has a golden opportunity to do what is right for our fishermen. It is an opportunity that Scotland and our European partners cannot afford to miss. We have to move away from perpetual crisis management to long-term planning to bring about a sustainable and profitable industry.
The Scottish Government's response to the European Commission's Green Paper on the Common Fisheries Policy lays out our key principles on the future of EU fisheries policy.
The CFP has failed Scotland. It is the EU's most discredited and unpopular policy. The Scottish Government favours scrapping the entire policy in favour of restoring national control of fisheries. We continue to urge the European Commission to boldly consider this option. However, for as long as we remain part of the CFP, our guiding principle throughout the debate on its future will be that decision-making powers must be returned to Scotland. And, as this submission makes clear, the protection of Scotland's historic fishing rights will be our top priority.
From Scotland's perspective, the CFP has often appeared a distant, centralised, unresponsive and discredited policy in which landlocked countries can have a greater say than a country like Scotland with a substantial fishing fleet.
The CFP is characterised by micro-management of every aspect of fisheries (allowable catch levels, net sizes, where to fish, catch composition, vessel power, days at sea etc) from Brussels. This approach has led to a top-down, control-heavy regime which has done little to win the support of individual fishermen. As a result the CFP has become increasingly complex and much harder for even well-informed stakeholders to follow. The resulting reciprocal suspicion between fishermen and the Commission has impeded mutual respect and trust, and this has led to a corresponding decrease in effective policy making.
The reform of the CFP also comes at a time of heightened sensitivity to the issue of food security. This emphasises a further and damning aspect of the CFP; namely its failure to deal with discarding of unwanted catches. Discards represent a biological and economic scandal and a waste of a precious food resource.
I welcome the Commission's recognition that the existing CFP does not work and that greater regionalisation and self-management is the way forward. We are at least moving in the same direction, albeit at different paces and with different destinations in mind. My preference is for decision-making to be returned to Member States and, in turn, that will allow us to co-operate on a regional basis with our neighbours to implement tailored fisheries management and end the scandal of discards. However, it is the case that removing decision-making from the Council of Ministers in favour of regional bodies would be a welcome step forward and command Scotland's support.
We have made every effort to develop and influence thinking on how best European fisheries should be managed in the future.
Scotland is already showing the way by using our limited powers to develop local solutions and promote sustainable fishing. The work we have done with our stakeholders in developing Conservation Credits, catch quotas and on board CCTV, and the investment we have made in the Inquiry into Future Fisheries Management demonstrates Scotland's contribution to developing and implementing fisheries policies fit for the 21 st Century. It is in that spirit that I present this document.
I would like to thank all those who contributed to the Scottish Government consultation on the Future of the Common Fisheries Policy, and the members of the IFFM for their thoughtful and authoritative input.