Siol nan Gaidheal
The Great Betrayal
Whilst researching facts and figures on the decline and the possible rebirth of the Scottish fishing industry, I was drawn to information held at the Public Records Office (released under the 30 years rule) by an article in the Aberdeen Press and Journal. Further research has lifted the lid off a very unsavoury can of worms. This preamble was initially intended to be the introduction to a viable scheme of fish conservation for Scotland. The evidence that Scottish fishermen and their representatives in Westminster were lied to, over and over again by the British State then as well as now, is so overwhelming, that I have decided to write it as a warning article for all Nationalists especially those of the SNP persuasion. It contains ample information to be used as ammunition against the Unionist parties of the British State and is a powerful indictment of the Europhile Scottish National Party, who are unable to influence the corridors of power in the EU, resulting in failure to effectively fight for Scottish fishing Interests.
In 1970 Britain was in the throes of negotiating entry into the EEC. This was being fiercely resisted by the French delegation who, fearing loss of power and prestige, brought up more and yet more outrageous demands, in the hope that Britain would withdraw its application to join. One of these proposals was for a Common Fisheries Policy or CFP. This French proposal was so damaging to Britain's fishing interests, that the French never dreamed in a thousand years that the British delegation was so desperate to join, that they accepted it! Hook, line, and sinker! Scarcely believing their good fortune, the French pushed their luck for more and still more impossible demands and got them!
At this time Britain had come off worse in the Icelandic Cod war, and was in the process of negotiating with the Faroese and Norwegian Governments to gain access to their grounds. The Scottish inshore fleet were extremely concerned that joining the EEC would prejudice these negotiations and that a CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) would act against their best interests. Accordingly the major Scottish fishing organisations contacted Mr Patrick Wolrige-Gordon, the Tory MP for East Aberdeenshire who became so concerned on behalf of his constituents, that he demanded a meeting with the Scottish Office to discuss the CFP as 'a matter of the utmost importance.' He did get a meeting with a minor mandarin, but got nowhere as he was fobbed off with doublespeak and miles of flannel. A hand-written note on one of the meeting papers by a senior civil servant at the S.O. said that 'In the wider U.K. context they (the Scottish fishermen) must be regarded as expendable.'
Mr Wolrige-Gordon was not the only Tory MP to be seriously concerned about the CFP. Mr W. Baker the MP for Banff, sought and was granted a meeting with Ministers, at which he expressed his constituents real fears that this would lead to the extinction of the Scottish inshore fleet. Mr Jo Grimond, the Liberal MP for Orkney and Shetland asked questions in the House of Commons and was told, 'It would be premature to take a UK position, as the EEC had not yet agreed a CFP.' Mr Grimond then had a private Foreign Office (FO) briefing at which he was told 'the EEC were having great difficulties on reaching an agreement between themselves.' Yet 8 days earlier a Foreign Office Confidential Memo of the 19th June said 'The policy (CFP) would be likely to present us with additional problems.' It should be noted that the FO believed that there was no common interest between Britain and the EEC Countries over fishing, as Britain had distant and middle water fleets while the EEC States were more interested in protecting their inshore fishing grounds from the British!
The Norwegians took a more energetic line and sent a strongly worded diplomatic note to Brussels demanding a delay, but British Embassies in European capitals were instructed to give the impression that Britain was not supporting the Norwegians. Furthermore a confidential memo from the negotiating team, stated 'Proposals allowing Community boats free access to grounds were causing grave anxiety.' because a previous derogation setting national limits at 3 miles would last only 5 years. 'This was politically unacceptable!' The memo concluded that this was an EEC bargaining position and that the UK would have at least a 12 mile limit. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food demanded that the negotiators put down 'a special marker' in Brussels on fishing policy, but on June the 25th, the head negotiator Sir Con O'Neill resisted this demand because 'It would risk prejudicing our negotiating position in a number of other fields.'
However the Foreign Office felt it was extremely unwise for the UK to make any approach about the policies Brussels might adopt for fear that to do so would alert the French to our worries and encourage them to speed things up. A senior Maff official urged Sir Con O'Neill, the Foreign Office Deputy Under-Secretary, to warn the EEC that it would be gravely misunderstood in the UK if decisions were taken just as entry negotiations were due to begin. It said British fishermen would lose advantages just gained from extending UK fishing limits to 200 miles, which would be 'politically quite unacceptable' - but added that Britain wanted access to Norwegian and Faeroese waters. The memorandum concluded the UK would be able to retain at least 12 miles.
On June 30, the French won a key battle against a German, Dutch and Italian bid to make any CFP decisions subject to negotiations with the applicant countries and insisted on full implementation by November 1. The UK Government did include a weak reference to fisheries in the UK's opening statement in the negotiations and promised to take the interests of the fishing industry into account.
On October 21, the EEC council agreed the new CFP, sparking protests in Parliament from MPs like Robert Maclennan, the MP for Caithness and Sutherland, who wrote to Tory Europe Minister Geoffrey Rippon saying he shared the concern of fishermen about free access to fishing grounds in the CFP. Mallaig and North West Fishermen's Association warned of herring stocks in the Minches being swept away if foreigners were allowed in. But a draft government reply to the wave of protest said it would be misleading to discuss individual elements of the EEC decision and that there were other advantages of joining, such as a faster economic growth rate.
On the 9th November the Tory M.P. for North Angus and Mearns, Mr Alick Buchanan Smith, then a junior Scottish Office minister, was given a secret briefing document which I quote 'there is substance to the fears expressed by the Scottish inshore fishermen.' However he was warned not to promise that the Government would obtain tolerable entry conditions in the talks. One Senior civil servant posed the question to Ministers as 'Was it wise to commit Britain's limited negotiating capital to defending fishermen!' To reassure the Fishermen's associations, the Foreign Office peddled the snake oil sales tactic of 'That after entry, Britain would be a powerful country, well able to defend its interests.'
***** In short, SCOTTISH FISHERMEN were EXPENDABLE!*****
32 Years on is it any better? The answer has to be a resounding No! No! No! Just recently the two national Federations have held four meetings with MAFF, three with Ministers and two with Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, but have emerged with nothing more than tea and sympathy. The fundamental problem is the British Treasury's iron resistance to releasing any funding to the fishing industry and, indeed, its eagerness to recover enforcement and research costs from the industry (which is not the case in the E.U.).
The Treasury's short term, blinkered, approach to the fishing industry has time and time again thwarted the adoption of sensible policies. It was, for example, the Treasury's resistance to decommissioning in the early 1990s which allowed the quota hopping problem to grow to such magnitude in the UK. It is also the Treasury's peculiar view of European grant money that allows the British tax payer to support the rebuilding of French, Spanish and Irish fleets, whilst denying the same funding to the UK fleet. For these and other reasons the Federation is pressing for an early meeting with Treasury ministers. Through the offices of Austin Mitchell MP the NFFO secured a debate in the House of Commons in which the industry's case for an aid package was made plain. It is clear that fishermen will need all the support that they can muster to break the Governments inertia.
Can the E.U. be made to change its stance if Scotland became independent in Europe? Not a snowball's chance in hell. The E.U. treats farming and fishing as huge collectives on the Stalinist model, where farmers are told what and where to grow, and fishermen where to and what to catch. The Chief E.U Fisheries Commissioner and German Foreign Minister Herr Joschka Fischer has always been honest about his views, there is continuity in his political views, and it appears he distrusts the concept of the nation state. (What hope for Scottish Independence here?) Interviewed in the Austrian magazine Profil in June 1997, Fischer declared: 'I realise more and more the extent to which I have remained a Marxist . . . Europe is an objectively Left project'
In his 1998 book Fur einen neuen Gesellschaftsvertrag ('For a New Social Contract') Fischer expounded his views in advance of the election which was to sweep Kohl from office. He referred repeatedly to the Communist Manifesto and the need to adapt historical materialism to today's situation. His new social contract contained the following theses:
'The state will have to say that it can no longer guarantee living standards and social security. It will declare that these are too high for the present and that capitalism is responsible for this state of affairs.
'Globalization must be presented as a historic necessity. It must be organised, canalised and used as a means of securing totalitarian control in all realms of society. Leaving globalization to the capitalists would lead to catastrophe.'
'At special times in history, violence is required to change society.'
Are these the words of a man who can be trusted to fairly apportion fishing quotas? His vision of Europe is diametrically opposed to that of the SNP's 'Independent Nation State in Europe'.
Finally, as for our fishing industry, it can be brought back from the dead, but only at the price of leaving Europe altogether. The SNP have no Fisheries policy except to leave it in the safe?!?! Hands of Herr Fischer and his Marxist fellow travellers? If the SNP would like a discussion document on resurrecting our fishing industry, I urge them to read the Clannasaor Manifesto.
Our fishermen are now suffering their worst crisis ever. Back in 1970, our once proud Scottish fleet was landing around 400,000 tonnes of cod a year in Scottish ports. In 2002, following the recent savage cuts in TACs (Total Allowable Catches) and quotas, Scottish boats will only be allowed to land 20,000 tonnes this year. By comparison, the huge Danish industrial fishing fleet which catches sprats, sandeels and pout (to make animal feedstuffs with, usually to fatten up pigs in steel cages which is banned in Britain as being very cruel.) Their total allowable by catch of cod is 35,000 Tonnes. This is utter madness!
Since Britain signed up to the EU in 1971, Scotland has lost over 2000 vessels from our fleet and many tens of thousands of jobs have been destroyed round our coastline, both at sea and on land. The core objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy - to protect the livelihood of fishermen and to sustain fish stocks - have failed utterly and abysmally. Ill considered and unscientific policies imposed by desk bound bureaucrats in Brussels have ensured the rundown of, and eventual ruin of our fishing Industry which in turn will destroy the unique culture and way of life of our small communities which depend on fishing...
The quota system, which forbids the landing of fish for which a skipper has no licence, has led to the dumping of over 2 million tonnes of healthy fish each year in the EU. 25% of all the fish caught in the EU are simply dumped dead over the side, back into the sea, because skippers would face hefty penalties if they tried to land them. This catastrophic waste, at a time when fish stocks have fallen to unsustainable levels, beggars belief. Now the Spanish, with their huge, modernised fleet of 18,000 trawlers, much of it paid for by British taxpayers, are agitating to abolish our 6 and 12 mile limits and rape our fish stocks right up to our shoreline.
The E.U. Fisheries Commission have actually increased the TAC for the Danish industrial fishing fleet to 1,000,000 (one million) tonnes when it is a well known fact that sandeels are a staple part of the diet of cod, hake and haddock. Had they thought of consulting the University of Aberdeen's Torry research station, they would have found the following statistics available. The research vessel Scotia examined the stomach contents of cod and found that sandeels were present in 100% of cod in the 3rd quarter in 1985, 97% 1st quarter in 1986, 65% and 75% in 1st and 3rd quarters in 1987. In addition Puffins on May Island in the Firth of Forth and Hermaness Head in Shetland depend on sandeels to feed their young. Overfishing round the 'Wee Bankie' in the Forth estuary and off Shetland has drastically reduced the numbers of puffins and it is estimated that mortality amongst the puffin chicks due to starvation, has in some years exceeded 90%.
Even the S.N.P. are starting to wake up to the disaster. Speaking at an RSPB Seminar on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, Shadow Fisheries Minister and North East SNP MSP, Richard Lochhead, said that a twin challenge lay ahead for management of fisheries. Mr Lochhead said:
"Through the reform of CFP there will be two challenges that Scottish fishermen will want to see addressed. Firstly, restoration of stocks to sustainable levels, and secondly, ensuring that the Scottish fleet retain their historic rights and will be large enough to take advantage of healthier stock levels in the years to come. On the one hand we must tackle industrial fishing and discards and on the other ensure relative stability is not compromised in any shape or form. Ideas being promoted by some MEPs like one flag for all EU vessels or the introduction of individual transferable quotas must never see the light of day. It's good to see a common agenda springing up between fishermen and environmentalists. It is important that we recognise that healthy seas can mean healthy stocks, and that can mean a healthy and viable fishing industry in Scotland. It is crucial that this agenda is not wrecked by the national interests of other EU members as CFP reform makes its way into legislation. Everyone who is interested in a sustainable future for the Scottish fishing fleet must stand together to ensure that we achieve the best deal possible."
Thank you Richard for at last waking up to the realities of life as faced by our fisherfolk and the processors on shore. Unfortunately the CFP is incapable of being reformed to something acceptable to Scottish fishermen. As this recent report from the Daily Telegraph of the 2nd August 2002 shows: Earlier this summer the director-general in charge of fisheries, Steffen Smidt, was summarily fired on orders of the Spanish government as a punishment for trying to save Europe's declining stocks from catastrophic over-fishing, much of it by Spanish vessels. The move was a breach of EU treaty law. But what most irked Euro-MPs was the way that the commission hierarchy tried to cover up the deed by presenting it as part of long-term reshuffle.
Large vested interests will ensure that any reform is to the benefit of the southern EU members alone. The E.U. are still not tackling the endemic pollution of the North Sea from the Rivers Elbe, Weser, Rhine and Waal. This must be tackled before it is too late to take remedial steps, yet nothing is being done. Each year hundreds of thousands of tonnes of toxic heavy metals continue to devastate the bottom living sea life of the North Sea, forcing the dwindling sea life ever forward towards eventual extinction.
The only logical answer is for Scotland to go it alone, outside the E.U. As an Independent, neutral country controlling its own Fishing Policy and fleet with a strong Coastguard presence. A strong Independent Scotland can enforce strict fishing discipline amongst the unprincipled pillagers of fish stocks. Clannasaor propose that draconian penalties be levied on all such pillagers with a range of penalties such as confiscation of boats and gear, long prison terms for the Captain and mates of the boat concerned and extremely heavy fines levied on the companies owning the boats. Any boat caught fishing in Scottish waters without a licence will face charges of piracy on the high seas and the Directors of the company or boat's owners will face extradition on the same charges.
Only in this way can our dwindling fish stocks be preserved for future generations.
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