Holyrood says Scotland will miss out on at least £60million of vital funding amid continuing uncertainty over the future of European Union fishing industry support.
The Scottish Government hit back yesterday after an MEP claimed it was “sowing seeds of confusion” about the UK Government’s commitment to making sure the sector does not lose out as a result of the Brexit vote.
Scots Tory fishing spokesman Ian Duncan, a member of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, said “clarity” was needed from Mr Ewing following confusion over the administration of the European Maritime and Fishing Fund (EMFF).
Mr Duncan added: “Following the result of the UK referendum to leave the European Union, the chancellor of the exchequer made an assurance that all European Structural and Investment Fund projects and funding agreements contracted before the Autumn Statement will be fully funded, even when the project extends beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.”
The MEP said he was concerned to find out Marine Scotland had issued advice saying the “many, as yet, unknown factors surrounding any future Brexit negotiation” meant all EMFF grants would need to be spent by 2018.
This was in direct contradiction of the support offered by the UK Government,” he said, adding: “My colleague, Fin Carson MSP, challenged Marine Scotland on this point, only to be told that the advice was no longer relevant. As yet, this information has not been conveyed to fishermen.”
And in a letter to Mr Ewing, Mr Duncan said: “Can I ask you, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that Marine Scotland provides the correct advice to all affected fishermen.
“This is not a time for the Scottish Government and its agencies to be sowing seeds of confusion.”
A spokeswoman for Fishing Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The only people sowing confusion and doubt are Ian Duncan’s Tory colleagues in government at Westminster.
“Nearly three months on from the EU referendum, we still do not know what Brexit actually means.
“All that Scotland’s rural and coastal communities and businesses have had is a guarantee of some EU funding if processed before the Autumn Statement.
“There is at least £60million of EMFF monies that Scotland will now not receive despite calls to extend the guarantee.”
Scotland’s valuable fishing industry – worth £437million in landings alone in 2015 – is caught in the middle of the spat.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Bertie Armstrong said: “We would certainly like to see all current levels of funding guaranteed until at least 2020 so as to ensure stability for both the catching and onshore sectors.
“We have pressed both the Scottish and UK governments on intentions for post-EU funding.
“Awards successfully argued on their merits will become no less worthy on Brexit.”