Investment and jobs in the Scottish seafood sector will be supported through a £14 million cash pot to replace vital EU funding north of the border.
Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said it would help coastal communities and also the marine environment, driving growth in the country’s “blue economy”.
But he also said the cash – Scotland’s allocation from a much larger pot created to replace European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) support for projects throughout the UK post-Brexit – fell well short of the country’s rightful share.
Mr Ewing described UK Government provision for the new Marine Fund Scotland (MFS) kitty as “wholly inadequate”.
And he argued that Scotland’s “equitable and evidence-based” funding share should be £62m per year, more than four times the size of the MFS pot, based on the EMFF budget for 2021-27 and “our sea area”.
MFS has a one-year budget of £14m, meaning all projects must be completed by March 31 2022.
Funding provided by the UK Government must match the scale of Scotland’s marine responsibilities and the value of our marine industries.”
Fergus Ewing, fisheries secretary
Mr Ewing said the UK Government was providing EMFF replacement support on a one-year basis only, preventing Holyrood from making longer-term strategic investments.
He added: “MFS will replace the outgoing EMFF and support growth in our blue economy, provide vital investment in the Scottish marine industries and seafood sectors, and protect jobs and livelihoods in our coastal communities at a time when many are facing acute hardship due to Brexit and the pandemic.
“In setting up this fund we’ve been consistently clear that the funding provided by the UK Government must match the scale of Scotland’s marine responsibilities and the value of our marine industries.
“However, what has been provided so far for Marine Fund Scotland has been wholly inadequate and far more is needed.”
The government in London has pledged to at least match EMFF funding, with that source of support now closed to new applications but continuing to award grants in the UK until 2023.
Nearly £100m of EU cash for Scotland
The EMFF has delivered more than £96m of funding for a wide range of projects in coastal communities around Scotland since it launched in 2016.
Mr Ewing said the Scottish Government keeps pressing Westminster to “make good” on its pledge, warning: “Reduced funding will inevitably limit what we are able to achieve for our fishers and coastal communities.”
He added: “The UK Government must also deliver on its promise to provide £100m to support fishing industry innovation and modernisation, with an equitable share for the Scottish catching and processing sectors.
“Anything less would effectively mean Scottish businesses and coastal communities being short-changed – adding insult to the injury of new trade barriers arising from the Brexit deal.”
Scottish Government ministers have long complained that this country’s allocation from the UK’s share of funding from the EMFF and its predecessors fell well short of a fair settlement.
Scotland’s fishing fleet accounts for the lion’s share of the UK catch, while Peterhead is home to Europe’s largest white fish port. Aquaculture, including farmed salmon production, is another area where Scotland has a disproportionately large market presence.
Scotland Office Minister David Duguid, Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan, said: “The £14m funding for Scotland was announced in last year’s spending review and aligns with what used to be available from the EU.
“Rather than picking yet another fight with the UK Government, Fergus Ewing would be better served getting this funding out to the marine and fisheries organisations and coastal communities that need it.”