This has not been a good couple of weeks for the Scottish Tories. Totally embarrassed and overexposed on fishing, as well as being isolated in trying to defend the Repeal Bill’s power grab, by diminishing the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
I lost a lot of good friends and colleagues in what we can now only call Tory lies on fishing. These Tory candidates cynically responded to Scottish fishing concerns about the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), by promising that they would be out of the CFP the day we left the EU. We now know, of course, that we will still be in the CFP on that day, but worse than that we will still be in the CFP without a vote or a say, with the rest of the EU 27 deciding how fishing stocks will be managed in UK waters. You could not get a worse possible position to be in and Scottish fishing communities are rightly furious. The Scottish Tories, in trying to get out of this hole, even attempted to reset and redefine the ‘red line’ they drew only a few days before to the date that the transition period will come to an end.
But just as we saw this week’s betrayal in all its glory, we started to see the seeds of the next one. European nations jealously guard their access to UK fishing waters and they have already said that they will demand continuing access to UK waters when we leave the EU. Already, they are starting to say that any final deal must include continued access. Fishing contributes very little to the UK economy, but sectors like The City and car manufacturing greatly do by comparison. Fishing was expendable in the past, it is being betrayed in the present and it will be sold out in the future.
Why Scottish fishermen ever thought they could rely on the Tories is simply baffling.
But what about these ‘brave’ Scottish Tory MPs who say that they will vote against the final deal if fishing is sold out? Don’t make me laugh! This supine and craven bunch have never even seen the inside of a lobby opposed to their Government.
They even supported their Government in removing free school meals to English school children, even though their vote did not count because of the English Votes for English Laws procedure. So determined were they to demonstrate their support for their Government, they turned up in person to have their votes discounted. For all their huffing and puffing they do exactly what they are told by their Westminster masters.
But you will just take us back into the EU, hence the CFP, they sequel. Yes, our intention is to re-join the EU, but we will seek to scrap or fundamentally reform the CFP to suit Scottish interests. With a seat at the top table we will put Scottish fishing interests first. We certainly do not start with the assumption that fishing is ‘expendable’ and we will secure the best deal possible for Scottish fisheries.
The stark choice for Scottish fishermen is an independent Scotland at the top table, negotiating on behalf of the sector or a Brexitised UK Government with its history of betrayal negotiating a Brexit deal with fisheries reduced to a bargaining chip for bigger UK priorities.
Scottish fishing should have a bright and secure future and once it is in the hands of a government that actually cares about the sector and its priorities then change will be made.