Number 10 hopeful Jeremy Hunt has pledged to provide Scottish fishermen with a dedicated voice until Brexit is realised, if he is elected as Tory leader.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) has called for a cabinet-level minister to represent the industry’s interests during Britain’s exit from the EU.
On Friday, however, the Scottish Government said it had no plans to create a specialist fisheries post.
But the Press and Journal can exclusively reveal that Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has promised to create such a post in Westminster should he win the race to Downing Street.
Mr Hunt, who visited Peterhead on the first weekend of his campaign trail, said: “This is a pivotal moment in the history of Scottish fishing. If we get this Brexit deal right, there is a sea of opportunity waiting on the other side for our fishermen.
“Until Brexit is fully delivered, I will appoint a fisheries minister with the sole responsibility of fighting for what is best for fishing communities.
“My government will take us out of the EU and out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), so we can become an independent coastal state with control over our waters. We will give powers to Peterhead, not send them back to Brussels like the SNP.
“Nicola Sturgeon will sell out Scotland’s fishermen in a heartbeat and drag them back in to the hated CFP. Only Ruth Davidson and the Conservatives are standing up for Scotland’s fishing communities.”
Last night, SFF chairman Bertie Armstrong welcomed Mr Hunt’s promise and said it was vital that the interests of the industry were protected.
He said: “The key aspect for us going forward is the changing of the governance in the ocean, which is absolutely the right thing to do for a country like the UK, where Scotland forms 60% of the value and volume of fisheries.
“It’s very important because we give away 60% of our fish under the Common Fisheries Policy, which is why Brexit is such a sea of opportunity.”
But Kirsty Blackman MP, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, hit back at Mr Hunt and criticised his party for treating the industry as “expendable”.
The Aberdeen North MP said: “The Tories notoriously sold out Scotland’s fishermen on the way into Europe – when the UK Government described the industry as ‘expendable’ – and it’s clear they’re gearing up to sell them out as the UK leaves.
“The promises made during the Brexit referendum debate are being broken one by one – and given that Ruth Davidson has said she would vote Remain in any future EU referendum, the Scottish Tories would also take Scotland back into the CFP. Not for the first time, the Tories are mired in confusion and hypocrisy.”
Meanwhile Mr Hunt has also called on his leadership rival Boris Johnson to “conclusively” rule out giving more economic powers to the Scottish Government.
John Lamont MP, his Scottish campaign manager, has said no Conservative leader should hand Nicola Sturgeon powers, which he claimed she would use to “hammer” businesses.