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European fisheries policy
The decision to exclude Scotland from this week's crucial talks on European fisheries policy in favour of an unelected member of the House of Lords has acquired added significance, according to Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.
Mr Lochhead had asked to attend the informal talks in Vigo, Spain, but was refused permission by UK Secretary of State Hilary Benn.
Since then, the situation has escalated after it was confirmed that the agenda has now been expanded to consider some items that had been due to be discussed at the formal Agri-Fish Council in Luxembourg on April 19, at which Mr Lochhead was due to attend. That meeting was cancelled due to travel disruption caused by volcanic ash.
The presentation of a detailed report on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy which is crucially important to Scotland will now be discussed in Vigo instead.
Speaking ahead of the Informal Council, Mr Lochhead said:
"Last month's cancelled fishing negotiations in Luxembourg had been scheduled to discuss issues of immense importance to Scotland and now these agenda items have been added to the informal meeting in Vigo that Scotland is barred from attending. This rubs salt into the wound caused by the UK Government's decision to stop Scotland attending in favour of an unelected Lord whose knowledge of Scots fishing could probably fit onto the back of a postage stamp with lots of room to spare.
"The CFP has failed Scotland's fishing industry and dependent communities. Our widely respected Conservation Credits scheme has demonstrated how using our limited fisheries powers we, fishermen and environmental groups can manage the seas in an effective and responsible manner. By returning key decision making to Scotland, a more local and regional approach would enable those who are the true experts to deliver real and lasting improvements.
"It's essential that Europe seizes the best chance in a generation to deliver a fit for purpose fisheries policy. Our fishermen are struggling to cope with low market prices, rising fuel costs and other short term problems as a result of the broken CFP. The Scottish Government is doing its bit, but we need decisive action from Europe now. It's a great pity that just when the Vigo meeting's agenda has been expanded, Scotland will be stopped from attending with our rightful place given to an unelected Lord."
Important business that had been scheduled for the AgriFish Council on April 19, but was cancelled due to volcanic ash causing travel situation, has now been added to the agenda for the Informal Fisheries Council in Vigo on May 4-5. The presentation of the Synthesis report on the Consultation on CFP Reform will now be taken at this meeting.