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Scottish Fishermen Make Special Case to Ministers over Fuel Costs

UK - With UK fisheries ministers meeting tomorrow (Thursday 12 June) to discuss measures to help the fishing industry survive the fuel crisis, the Scottish Fishermens Federation is warning that quick and decisive action must be taken.

Quayside fuel prices have doubled over the past year and the SFF is pressing home that fishing is a special case that needs its own support package.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, said: The fishing industry is different from most other businesses because it is unable pass these extra costs on to customers as most fish is sold through an auction system.

Even more importantly, leaving the fishing industry to market forces alone will damage the UKs capability as a primary food producer. If help is not given, then the ability of the UK to harvest this wonderful, natural, national resource in the sea will be damaged irrecoverably. This would be a disaster, especially since it comes at a time when the industry has worked incredibly hard and with great sacrifice to ensure that fish stocks are harvested sustainably.

The SFF is calling for short-term financial aid to see the industry through the current crisis and allow time for the industry to adapt to high fuel prices. This is possible through the European de minimus principle, which allows EU member states to pay up to 30,000 euros per enterprise (or in this case fishing boat) without invoking state rules or obtaining additional permission from Brussels.

The industry demands are simple and there must be the political will in both Holyrood and Westminster to make them affordable, said Mr Armstrong.

We must have the de minimus payment that has already been made to the other two top EU fishing nations, France and Spain. This can be tied to fuel efficiency initiatives and be sensibly staged, but we must have it if the industry is to survive.

In parallel, we must forge practical plans for the medium and longer term to adjust to the new fuel reality. These discussions are already underway in Scotland. Whatever happens to world fuel prices, there will still be a haulage industry in five years, whereas lack of action by Westminster and Holyrood will ensure the collapse of access to our own fish.

Ellen Hardy

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