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UK Government Accused Of Ignoring Fishing Industry

SCOTLAND, UK - Richard Lochhead MSP, Scotlands Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, rounded on UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hilary Benn for an unforgivable snub to Scotlands fishing industry.

Last month, Mr Benn refused to allow Mr Lochhead to attend important talks on the future of European fisheries policy that are underway today and tomorrow in Vigo, Spain. The UK is being represented by parliamentary under-secretary of state Lord Davies of Oldham, who, the Scottish National Party say, has no specific responsibilities for fisheries issues – his primary specific responsibilities are bee and plant health.

Mr Benn’s decision to refuse Mr Lochhead’s request is despite the fact that issues which were due to be discussed at the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg last month – which Mr Lochhead had been due to attend, but which was cancelled due to the volcanic ash situation – are now being discussed in Vigo. This includes the presentation of a detailed report on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy, which is crucially important to Scotland – which has over 70 per cent of the UK-wide fisheries industry.

On Monday, First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, seeking his urgent intervention in order to reverse this decision and allow Mr Lochhead to attend.

Having supposedly snubbed the interests of Scotland’s fishing industry, Mr Benn’s party campaigning in Glasgow on the first day of the summit yesterday (4th May) “adds insult to injury”.

Mr Lochhead said: “Hilary Benn and the Labour government in London are treating Scotland’s fishing industry with contempt.

“Out of sheer spite and bias against Scotland, Labour would rather send an unelected Lord – whose main responsibility is plant health – to these vital fisheries talks in Spain, even though Scotland has over 70 per cent of the UK fishing industry.

“And now, to add insult to injury, Hilary Benn has the bare faced cheek to turn up for a Labour Party campaign photo-call in Glasgow. This unforgivable snub to Scotland’s fisheries industry will not be forgotten by our fishing communities.

“If no UK fisheries minister can be bothered to go to these crunch talks that are underway this week, there is no question that the Scottish Government should be represented.

“There can be no better illustration of the need for Scotland to be represented in the European Union as an independent nation.”

the Fish Site Editor

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