A senior fishing industry boss has claimed that the Tories do not have a “credible vision” for the future of the industry.
Fraserburgh-based William Tait snr, who is a director at the Klondyke Fishing Company, has cast doubt over Boris Johnson’s pledge to take the UK out of the common fisheries policy and has warned that the Tories would “disregard fishing in Scotland and trade away opportunities”.
Mr Tait, speaking to the Press and Journal, called on fishermen in the north-east to now back the SNP at December’s election.
The Tories were quick to dismiss the comments however, saying Mr Tait was a “lone voice”.
Mr Tait said: “It is my personal view that the SNP is the only party to have outlined a credible vision for Scottish fishing that would release the potential of our sector and help us achieve the outcomes of the sea of opportunity that industry wants.
“A catching policy based on zonal allocation of fishing opportunities – as the SNP advocates – would be a fairer deal for Scottish fishing and help the sector increase our share of the fish stocks caught within our coastal waters for the benefit of our coastal communities and wider economies.
“It would also protect our place in the single market, giving our processors access to the labour they need and allowing Scottish seafood to continue to be exported tariff-free to its European market.”
He added: “I do question whether other political parties’ proposals on fishing stand up to real challenge and scrutiny.
“I – and many others – am concerned that the UK Government, during the UK-EU Brexit trade negotiations that are still to come, will simply disregard fishing here in Scotland and trade away the real opportunities that exist for our sector.”
The comments came as Mr Tait offered his support to the SNP’s Paul Robertson, who is standing in Banff and Buchan and Richard Thomson, who is standing in Gordon.
Mr Robertson said Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal would be “10 times worse for Scottish fishing than what we have at the moment”.
His Tory opponent, David Duguid, said the only sell-out at this election would be if the SNP managed to stop the UK leaving the CFP.
He said: “The problem for the SNP is that they want to stay in the EU – all they can offer our fishermen is many years more of the CFP.
“We have tried to reform the CFP from within for 40 years – it doesn’t work.
“There is only one party at this election that is committed to taking Scottish fishermen out of the CFP and that is the Scottish Conservatives.
He added: “A Conservative government will keep negotiations on trade and access to waters separate. The only ‘sell-out’ will be if the SNP succeed in stopping Brexit and denying this huge opportunity for the sector.”
Colin Clark, who is standing for the Tories in Gordon, agreed and said Mr Tait did not speak for the entire industry.