Scotland’s vital fishing industry will thrive and not just survive under independence, Yes campaigners insisted in Peterhead yesterday.
Years of frustration over slashed quotas and days at sea came to a head in the Buchan port in a rallying call for voters to back separation in September’s referendum.
With 50 days of the campaign to go, the launch of new group Fishing for Yes came with predictions of a better future for the fleet if Scotland breaks away from the UK.
Skippers, crew, suppliers and retailers were joined by Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead and Banff and Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford for the launch on the quayside of Europe’s busiest white-fish port.
Fraserburgh-based skipper David Gatt, a co-founder of Fishing for Yes said: “The fishing industry in Scotland needs greater influence, better representation, a fairer deal in funding and quota protection, and this will only happen if we vote Yes in September.”
Mr Gatt – whose boat, Audacious, fishes for haddock and has been decked out in Yes Scotland flags – added: “Scotland is already one of the EU’s leading fishing nations and our waters account for at least a fifth of Europe’s entire catch.
“As an independent member state we will have a much bigger say and influence on the issues that matter most to the industry.”
Former Peterhead skipper John Buchan, who has been involved in fishing for 40 years, said: “I reluctantly made the decision to leave the industry after successive Westminster governments negotiated increasingly poor fishing opportunities for Scotland.
“If Scotland had had its own representation at the top tables in Europe, then I and a great many more fishermen would still be in the industry.”
Peterhead white-fish skipper Brian Buchan, owner of The Lapwing, added: “With a Yes vote we’ll have a government willing to put up a fight for the fishing industry – not one 600 miles away which shows no interest whatsoever in fishing.”
Murdo Kennedy, a crab, lobster and prawn skipper from Lewis, said: “It can only be good to have decisions made closer to home.”
John Gold, manager of Frankie’s Fish and Chips in Shetland, said fishing was not on London’s “radar”, adding: “The industry will have a better chance of influencing our own Scottish Government than a Westminster system that simply isn’t interested.”
Peter McCann of Inverness-based Scottish Seafood Exports said a Yes vote would allow the business access to new markets and help promote “brand Scotland”.
Not surprisingly, the No camp was unimpressed.
A Better Together spokesman said: “The majority of Scotland’s fishermen know that for their industry in particular there are huge unanswered questions about the consequences of separation.
“There is real uncertainty about what would happen during lengthy EU reapplication negotiations about quotas and fishing rights in the coastal waters of other member states.”
He added: “Scotland’s fishing fleet gets the best of both worlds by remaining part of the UK and continuing to exert influence through one of the largest EU member states.”