Scotland’s foremost fisher’s body, the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation (SFF), has challenged John Swinney, Scotland’s new First Minister, to “right the wrongs” of the Bute House Agreement and commit to putting support for fishing towards the top of the agenda.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) has launched its Industry Trends and Attitudes Report, calling for a balanced green agenda following the collapse of the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens.

As part of the publication, a survey of 1,000 Scots revealed the sector receives widespread public backing, with nine in 10 people in the country believing the Scottish Government should do more to support the industry – particularly those communities which are intrinsically connected to the sea.

SFF CEO Elspeth Macdonald calls for recognizing fishing as a climate-smart sector and part of the climate solution. Macdonald said “This report aims to refocus the spotlight onto facts, not rhetoric. It sets out how the modern industry has adapted, the strong focus on science and the importance of proper dialogue and cooperation. It also highlights the complexity of our marine systems, and why oversimplifying issues does no favours – and indeed can be misleading – when helping to really understand what are complex and often poorly understood processes.”

The report delves into key social and political issue as well as new analyses on:

  • The current industry in numbers;
  • Scotland’s fishing heritage and the public’s perception of the industry;
  • The future of fishing, sustainability, food security and the challenges of unwatched catches;
  • The spatial squeeze for the industry and its environmental impact; and
  • Socioeconomics of Scotland’s fishing industry



More engagement needed

The Shetland South councillor and Green Orkney and Shetland candidate at the upcoming general election said: “I reject the suggestion that the Green agenda should somehow be separate from the agenda of the fishing industry.”

“The HPMA policy was previously believed by Scottish Government ministers to be beneficial for the environment and the fishing industry,” he said.

 “In my view, there had been inadequate engagement with fishers and coastal communities, and this resulted in a top-down policy making process which rightly faced criticism.

 “HPMAs were not implemented because the Scottish Government, to their credit, listened to folk’s concerns and abandoned the policy.”

New fishing pledge signed by politicians

Earlier in May, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary signed a pledge to protect and support Scotland’s vital fishing industry and coastal communities. The commitment was made ahead of her introductory speech at Skipper Expo – the industry’s largest gathering taking place in Aberdeen. The pledge signed by politicians calls on enhanced support of Scotland’s fishing communities, fishing’s role in food security, the importance of protection against loss of access to key fishing grounds and ensuring that policies recognise and support fishing’s role in producing low carbon, healthy and nutritious food.

During her speech at the 9 May event, the Cabinet Secretary Miari Gougeon  said: “I know that the relationship between industry and government can be fragile, and that was shown last year by the results to the consultation that was undertaken on Highly Protected Marine Areas; but we listened to your concerns and we decided not to move forward with that.

 “Since then we have focused even more on listening to the views of the fishing industry and have really tried to move forward in that spirit of cooperation, and we are continuing to make good progress on delivering some key priorities under our Fisheries Management Strategy.

 “We should always celebrate the Scottish fishing industry, our seafood is second to none, and I think it’s vital that industry not just survives, but thrives for the future, and that’s why I was delighted to sign my name to the pledge earlier this morning.”

Gaining the signature of Ms Gougeon was seen as a landmark moment for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, with the pledge forming an element of its Pride in the Seas campaign.

Additional information

Access the full press release “Report underlines crucial role of fishing to incoming First Minister” here

Read the full report “Industry Trends and Attitudes” report here

View the latest from the SSF ‘Pride in the Seas’ here

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