The Scottish fishing industry is in danger of being “left behind” the rest of the UK due to delays in the roll-out of a £16 million investment fund, it was claimed yesterday.
From today, English fishermen will be able to bid for a share of the UK Government backed technology and innovation fund, but, as fishing is devolved, Scottish fishermen will have to wait until April next year due to administration delays at Marine Scotland.
Scotland Office minister Colin Clark last night said the delay illustrated how the SNP government in Holyrood was not “interested in delivering” for Scotland’s industry.
He said: “I’m very concerned that our our fishing industry, which is the biggest and most important in the UK, is being left behind by this delay.
“We want our coastal communities to thrive as we leave the EU, throw off the shackles of the CFP and look to the future.
“But we know that the SNP aren’t interested in delivering a sea of opportunity for Scotland’s fishing industry because they do not support leaving the EU or the CFP.
“So today, as Defra invests millions in the fishing industry in England, I am urging the Scottish Government to end the delay right now.”
The cash announced yesterday is in addition to the existing European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) funding.
The UK Government has already guaranteed that all EMFF projects approved before December 31, 2020, will be fully funded, bringing the total support package available to the UK fisheries sector from 2016 to 2022 to £320 million.
Banff and Buchan MP David Dugiud also called on the Scottish Government to take action to ensure north-east fishermen do not miss out.
He said: “I am disappointed that the SNP won’t take bids for Scottish projects until next year. It is an opportunity missed for our marine industries.
“SNP Ministers must now ensure every penny of this funding goes directly to support our fishermen and our coastal communities in areas like Banff and Buchan.
“Previous rounds of EMFF funding have seen the north-east receive less than 15% of the Scottish total, despite the presence of Europe’s biggest fishing port in Peterhead.
“Our fishing communities cannot continue to be short-changed.”
The Scottish Government was approached for comment.
The investment announcement came after SNP MP Brendan O’Hara raised concerns in the House of Commons that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will give Northern Ireland’s fishing sector an advantage over west coast fishermen.
The Argyll and Bute MP said: “This Brexit deal will allow Northern Ireland’s fishing industry continued access to the Single Market and Customs Union but deal a devastating blow to Scotland’s – despite both countries voting overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and therefore the Single Market and Customs Union.”