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Anger at UK Fisheries Minister over Fuel Crisis

UK - The Scottish fishermens Federation has express bitter disappointment and anger at the rejection by UK fisheries minister Jonathan Shaw of immediate short-term aid to help the fishing industry survive the major crisis it is facing due to the sky-high price of fuel.

Speaking shortly after talks with the minister in London at a meeting attended by other UK fishing federations, with a video conference link to fisheries ministers from the devolved administrations, Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive said the Scottish fishing industry’s key demand for financial short-term aid was flatly rejected by Mr Shaw.

"This is a massive blow to our industry and comes against the background of French and Spanish boats, who have been given financial help by their governments, fishing in the same waters for the same fish that we catch and delivering it into the same markets," he said.

Mr Shaw told the fishing industry delegation that the UK Government did not have the financial resources available to provide support for the industry.

However, Mr Armstrong countered: "It is not a case of resources not being available but more a lack of political will on the part of the UK Government.

"In UK terms we are not a large industry and difference between us and other business sectors is that they will still be here in five years time whilst there is now the real danger that parts of the fishing fleet will be killed-off."

Mr Shaw did concede, however, that the Government was prepared to discuss measures over the medium to long term, although he gave no firm commitments.

Meanwhile, the main hope now for the fishing fleet lies with the Scottish Government being prepared to offer short-term help, given that this lies within its devolved remit.

Mr Armstrong said: "It is a pity that when we have long been calling for a flat playing field across the whole of Europe that we can’t even achieve this at a UK level where all the UK fishing federations are speaking with one voice."

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Fisheries, Richard Lochhead, told the meeting that all UK fishing ministers should meet as a matter or urgency to find a viable solution.