The changed relationship with Europe would be of profound importance to the Scottish Fishing Industry, as would the altered fishing opportunity. According to the SFF, the debate so far has been mostly superficial, with no proper analysis of risk and benefit.
In the letter to Scots Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead, and UK Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, the SFF has underlined that as an organisation it is apolitical and cannot take a view on independence - but it has been charged by its members to ask questions so as to provide more clarity that will enable individual fishermen to make their own minds up.
In the letter, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, says an outline of the questions being raised by the Federation is already in the public domain, but adds: “We note with some disappointment, but perhaps less surprise, that already the messenger has been focused upon rather than the questions in the message. The process from now will be better served by noting that the SFF is not seeking to take a position on independence, it is asking the questions which will clarify for all the balance of risk and benefit.”
The SFF has identified three core areas where more clarity and proper risk/benefits analyses are required: the ‘European Journey’; the management of fishing in an independent Scotland; and the new business environment.
On Europe, one of the key questions the SFF asks is: What will the balance of benefit be between membership as a component of a large Member State (UK, sized with Germany, France, UK and Italy) and a smaller one (Scotland, sized with Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Croatia)? An analysis should be undertaken to seek out areas where the Scottish fishing industry has been advantaged or disadvantaged under present arrangements compared with other current Member States of Scotland’s size.
On fisheries management in an independent Scotland, the SFF says a risk/benefit analysis must be undertaken on a range of issues, including providing clarification over the level of certainty that Scottish vessels will maintain their individual quota holdings post separation.
On the new business environment in an independent Scotland, the SFF says there is also the requirement for a risk/benefit analysis – which it hopes will unfold in the wider debate – on tax and spend arrangements and support for more remote communities dependent upon fishing.
The letter concludes: “The above questions and others will become very real on the 19 September in the event of a Yes vote. Ministers who deal with fishing and associated activities in both the UK and Scottish Governments are requested to address them in time for individuals to make informed assessments before referendum day.”
The full letter can be viewed on the SFF website at: http://tinyurl.com/m9m2tc2