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SFF Attacks Shadow Fisheries Minister for Failing to Understand Industry

Sustainability Politics +2 more

SCOTLAND, UK - The Scottish Fishermens Federation has launched a scathing attack on Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris for his complete failure to understand the numerous problems currently facing the Scottish fishing industry. The criticism of the minister comes in the wake of his contention that fishermen should be treated like drug dealers in reference to the pelagic sector following prosecutions brought against them for incidents that occurred many years ago.

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SFF Chief Executive Bertie Armstrong said: Tom Harris, the Labour MP for Glasgow South and Westminster Shadow Fisheries Minister, who may be best remembered for being sacked as the Labour Party internet adviser and for the MPs expenses debacle, has distinguished himself by proving that he has utterly failed to understand the current problems facing the fishing industry of the UK.

Instead, he has chosen in a recent press release to pick upon an episode from seven to 10 years ago where prosecutions brought against Scottish fishermen resulted in swingeing fines and paybacks.

Mr Harris was actually briefed a week ago on the main problems across the whole fishing industry. He has completely ignored that, demanding instead that fishermen be treated like drug dealers. I do not wish to defend in any way illegal behaviour but we have a justice system, which includes proceeds of crime legislation, to deal with such matters. He rails against that system in not doing the equivalent of placing fishermens heads on a spike, but fails utterly to comprehend what part the industry plays in local communities. He may have no fishermen as constituents in Glasgow South, but as the Shadow Minister, he has a public responsibility to act in a balanced way for the wellbeing of the industry.

The High Court Judges comments in the cases to which he refers - which Mr Harris appears not to have consulted - included: All of the accused who appear today have spent their working lives as productive and hard-working members of our community. Barring other regulatory infringements not a single one has ever come into any conflict with the law.

Each defendant had already forfeited the quota caught illegally; had additionally been subjected to a large fine and also finally suffered under the Proceeds of Crime legislation. But all this is now history. He could have chosen instead the current main problem facing the UK mackerel fleet - the unacceptable behaviour of Iceland and the Faeroe Islands in over-catching mackerel to the financial tune of more than the whole Scottish industry landings not just the mackerel catch but all fish landings. Or, he could have chosen to focus on daft regulation from Brussels on days at sea.

Of course that wouldnt be as dramatic as a lightweight populist attack on the industry - but as a former journalist he knows what will be likely to get printed. He has never visited the industry north of Glasgow, has not listened to the briefings provided for him and has now made any confidence building with the industry a near impossibility. This is in sharp contrast to his party predecessors - Huw Irrancha-Davies was a worthy Fisheries Minister when in government and Mr Harris immediate predecessor Fiona ODonnell was master of her brief. Perhaps Mr Milliband should give a few minutes thought to the matter.