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Ramsay Jones: Brexit can be a sea of opportunity for our fishing industry

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Here we go: Imagine, just for a moment, if the rest of Europe were to allow Scottish cattle to graze on their finest pastures. Not just on a few scattered acres, but on half of all their best.

Or just think how it would be if our drinks industry was given 50% of the grape harvest in France and Spain each year? With Germany and Italy thrown in for good measure. And not having to buy it either. We just pop over and harvest it.

It’s not going to happen. They wouldn’t let us. We wouldn’t even think to ask. Because it wouldn’t be right.

So pause and ponder on this. Half of one of our most precious sources of food is given over to our European neighbours. We gave it away.

Our rich fishing grounds. Half the catch is to non-UK vessels.

So when our fishermen talk about Brexit being a Sea of Opportunity, they are right.

The UK’s coastal waters are some of the best in the world. If fished sensibly and sustainably, they can provide stable employment for thousands on these islands and be a growing source of some of the best food we can eat.

I’ve written here before about Brexit. It’s not going away so no apologies for doing so again because all around Scotland, our coastal communities are on the verge of a great prize.

Whatever trials and tribulations Brexit may bring, and it won’t be an easy path to tread, we have to make the most of the opportunities which it will bring as well as face up to the challenges.

And in fishing the prize is tangible and great. Brexit means that our fish are coming home.

In a landmark moment last week, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation brokered an agreement with their English counterparts. The fishing folk of Britain could not be clearer.

Their message is simple: We must not trade away this bounty of the seas as part of any Brexit deal. Any access to our fishing grounds is a matter for Brexit Day plus one. On our terms. At our behest. After we have decided just what our capacity is and whether there is any excess quota.

And I think it highly unlikely that any legal right for foreign vessels to fish our grounds will exist. We would have to give them away as we did once before.

Now it is time for our politicians north and south of the border to back that common cause. The industry leaders are speaking with one voice and our political leaders must do the same.

That means concentrating on the prize, not squabbling about process and how to divi it up. It means resisting the desire to score constitutional points over the border, and uniting in common cause.

It has been made clear that post Brexit there will be no re-reservation of powers from Holyrood to Westminster. In other words, in issues such as fishing devolution already works, nothing changes. There is no row here. So let’s not waste breath on the issue.

Instead, lets fix our eyes on the prize. Let our coastal communities tell out politicians to get together, to talk together and to work together.

It is a Sea of Opportunity. Let’s seize it.

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