Fishing and crofting concerns raised at EU discussion table

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HIGHLANDS and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor this week travelled to Brussels to raise key issues for Scotland – including fishing sector concerns about days at sea and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

As part of a delegation from the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee, Mr McGrigor held meetings with senior EU officials and MEPs and, amongst other subjects, discussed the EU’s recent proposal for further severe cuts in the number of days at sea for Scotland’s whitefish vessels which has caused so much alarm in the fishing sector.

Mr McGrigor also discussed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

On the subject of fisheries, Mr McGrigor – who is the Scottish Conservative Spokesman on Environment, Climate Change, Europe and External Affairs – said: “The EU’s bolt from the blue in terms of seeking to impose yet further cuts in the days at sea for our whitefish sector is unacceptable and we will work with the Scottish Government and the UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon to reverse this plan.

“Our whitefish fleet has already sacrificed a great deal to take part in the Cod Recovery Plan and real progress is being made through the existing real time closures, a catch-quota scheme and the use of more selective nets.

“Commissioner Damanaki [Deputy Head of Cabinet of EU Fisheries] must recognise this and explain why the EU is proposing further automatic days at sea reductions when even the EU’s own scientific advisers do not think this is the best way to improve cod stocks,” he continued.

Mr McGrigor also highlighted the concerns of sheep farmers regarding the impact of EID rules.

He expanded: “This morning I met with the National Sheep Association and they made their views very clear and I will be writing to Mr Pacheco [EU Deputy Director General of Agriculture and Rural Development] to suggest he meets with them who can explain the practical difficulties which are so frustrating and impoverishing their sheep farming members.”

Also discussed was the EU’s ban on Asulox – the key chemical Scotland’s crofters and farmers use to control bracken.

“The ban on Asulox is a typical example of a bad EU decision,” commented Mr McGrigor, “It was judged unsafe to be used as a herbicide on spinach yet it is completely safe when used on bracken as we do not eat it and bracken itself is thought to be carcinogenic when it turns brown!

“But instead of the EU just banning its use on food crops and licensing it for use on non-food crops, it recommends a total ban which will harm my farming and crofting constituents!”