Theresa May has now set up Scotland’s fishermen as a bargaining chip for the UK government as it continues to negotiate over Brexit. But it’s not the first time Westminster has sold out Scotland’s fishermen.
For more than 45 years, the Tories in Westminster have described Scotland’s fishermen as “expendable” in European negotiations, and Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement only reinforces that truth; to Westminster, Scotland’s interests are always expendable.
Here’s how, for the past half century, Conservative Prime Ministers have not just harmed but sold out Scotland’s fishermen.
1970s – Edward Heath
In the early 1970s the Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath began negotiating the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community, the forerunner to the European Union.
Despite warnings from figures in Scotland and the UK’s own Department of Agriculture and Fisheries that agreeing to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) would lead to Scotland having a “weaker and less efficient national fleet” and could see Scotland lose over half of its fishing fleet.
The UK government pushed ahead regardless, with government papers released 30 years later suggesting they did so due to believing the CFP would benefit English and Welsh fishermen instead.
In 1973, a senior UK civil servant wrote that: “In light of Britain’s wider European interests they, the Scottish fishermen, are expendable.”
1980s – Margaret Thatcher
Throughout the 1980s (and ’90s), the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher betrayed and dismissed Scotland in so many areas.
On fishing, it was the government of Margaret Thatcher that signed Scotland and the UK up to the original Common Fisheries Policy and continued a policy of systematically trading away the rights of the fishing industry.
Like Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and her government exemplified the belief that Scotland’s interests and Scotland’s fishermen were “expendable”.
1990s – John Major
In the 1990s, despite all the evidence that the Tories’ decision to fully endorse and support the CFP was weakening and damaging the Scottish fishing industry, John Major’s Tory government signed up to a revised Common Fisheries Policy.
John Major’s revised CFP led to the scrapping of 578 fishing vessels and damning the industry even further.
2010s – Theresa May and Ruth Davidson
During the Brexit negotiations, Theresa May pledged that she would not repeat the transgressions of her predecessors and sell out Scottish fishermen. However, with the publication of her withdrawal agreement it has become clear that the UK government is once again preparing to use Scotland’s fishermen as a bargaining chip. Once again, Theresa May is proving that the Tories and Westminster think of Scotland’s fisheries as “expendable”.
Ruth Davidson and David Mundell promised Scottish fishermen that they would deliver for the industry, yet time after time they have backed the UK government’s rolled-back promises. Industry leaders have even in the past accused Ruth Davidson of a “dereliction of duty” in regards to Scotland’s fishing industry.
— The SNP (@theSNP) March 19, 2018
2018 – Scotland’s 13 Tory MPs
The 13 Scottish Tory MPs claimed that they would vote against any Brexit deal that didn’t restore “complete control and full sovereignty” of Scotland’s waters. Well, the deal agreed by Theresa May won’t even come close to achieving complete control for Scotland’s fishermen.
Scottish Tory MPs now have a choice – will they stand by their word and reject this sell-out of Scotland’s fishing industry, or follow the Tory mantra that Scotland’s interests are “expendable”?
Scots Tory MPs letter to PM on 14/11 says specifically that “access and quota shares cannot be included in the Future Economic Partnership”. Political Declaration now agreed shows they have been. The 13 therefore cant support May’s #Brexit deal ( including @DavidMundellDCT ) pic.twitter.com/KpqFQ1oM9a
— Michael Russell (@Feorlean) November 22, 2018