Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon cuts a ribbon to open Aquaculture UK at Aviemore last year. Inset: the new reporting setting out the claimed benefits of Scottish independence to the sector.

Let’s sail this ship alone

Scotland’s aquaculture minister argues that independence would benefit marine sector

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Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon today published a new document which argues that the marine sector would be better off if the country was independent from the United Kingdom.

The paper, Building a New Scotland: Our marine sector in an independent Scotland, points out that independence would give Scotland the chance to apply to rejoin the European Union and sets out the benefits of rejoining for the marine sector and the industries and communities it supports. These include regaining access to the EU single market for seafood products, enjoying the benefits of free movement of people/labour between EU countries and negotiating an equitable share of EU funding.

Among other things, the paper, which Fish Farming Expert understands was written without consultation with the aquaculture sector, points out that Brexit has cost the salmon sector £3 million a year in extra administrative costs. The shellfish farmers has also been disadvantaged, with exporters estimating that the new barriers to trade with the EU have resulted in additional costs of £500-600 per consignment (regardless of size), making some exports unviable.

Scotland’s ability to export some goods – such as shellfish from undesignated and class B and C waters – also ceased overnight when the UK became a third country to the EU.

Locked potential 

Gougeon, whose ministerial portfolio includes aquaculture, said: “This paper sets out in detail how independence, and having an independent Scottish voice in Europe, will benefit our vital Scottish marine sector, the people and businesses that work in it and the coastal and island communities who depend on it.

“Scotland is a proud maritime nation. Scottish vessels account for over 60% of the value and tonnage of all landings by UK fishing vessels, and Scottish-farmed Atlantic salmon is the UK’s biggest single food export.

“Our marine sector also has significant potential, waiting to be unlocked to benefit our people, communities, economy, and environment. But that potential can only be realised with the full powers of independence, giving the sector the support it needs and the prioritisation it deserves.

“The marine economy currently faces many challenges, many arising from Brexit which has adversely impacted on Scotland’s coastal and island communities, businesses and industries. We lost freedom of movement and got new barriers to seafood trade. It also meant a loss of fishing opportunities for parts of Scotland’s fleet. An independent Scotland could re-join the EU, gaining access to the biggest single market in the world and reclaiming those benefits.

“The Scottish Government believes that independence is an opportunity to address the current challenges and to put the future of Scotland’s seas in Scotland’s hands.”