A Scottish fishing chief has questioned the wisdom of sending a “clueless” junior minister from the House of Lords to international talks.
Iain MacSween said the choice of Lord de Mauley to head up the UK team at the recent EU Fisheries Council in Brussels was like sending Partick Thistle Football Club’s “reserve” team to take on the superstars of Real Madrid.
Lord de Mauley is “no (Christiano) Ronaldo” is such a negotiating contest, Mr MacSween, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation (SFO), added.
The Prime Minster’s office defended the decision yesterday, saying ministers always acted in the best interests of the UK.
Eton-educated Lord de Mauley, a baron who served as opposition whip for the Tories from 2009-10 and is a former shadow minister for two government departments, led the UK’s Fisheries Council team in the absence of Fisheries Minister George Eustice.
Then first minister Alex Salmond was furious about the “snub” and complained about it in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Scottish Government has frequently argued that Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead should head up the UK team in these circumstances, given the size and economic importance of the industry north of the border.
Commenting on this month’s Fisheries Council in his latest letter to SFO members, Mr MacSween said: “Presumably his (Lord de Mauley’s) bosses, the environment secretary and the fisheries minister, were too busy to attend, which is a bit strange as you would have thought they would put an important meeting such as this in their diaries.
“By all accounts his contribution to the debate was short and apparently confined to reading a note handed to him by one of his officials.
“Surely it would have made sense to have someone represent the industry who actually knows something about what they are talking about.
“If you send someone to the meeting who is clueless, why should you be surprised when you do not get the result you want.
“What we have just seen is a bit like sending Partick Thistle reserves to play Real Madrid and actually expect to win.
“The baron is no Ronaldo when it comes to fisheries”.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The government takes its responsibility to act for all parts of the UK extremely seriously.
“Our ministers put our country’s interests first and foremost in all they do.
“We have consistently and successfully worked with the Scottish Government to argue for and to secure the best deals for our fishing industry. Their hand is strengthened by being part of the UK.”