Fishing reform is urgently needed, for our fishing communities and for fish stocks

picture of a fishing trawler in the North Sea
A trawler fishing in the North Sea. Jom/Wikimedia. Creative Commons.

This article first appeared in the Press and Journal, on Friday 23rd March, 2018

I was a very keen remain voter in the European Referendum. But I can very much understand why others voted to leave. Fishing communities are top of the list of leave voters for whom I have sympathy. I can understand why people living in places devastated by the Common Fisheries Policy voted to leave. Theresa May’s decision to continue the UK’s membership of the Common Fisheries Policy is another Tory sell-out of those fishing communities devastated by Tory policy in the 1980s.

During the 1980s the UK government, under Margaret Thatcher took a strategic decision to focus the UK economy on finance, and on developing the city of London. In Europe this meant trading away the rights of fishing communities to safeguard London’s status as the financial capital of the world. All of the larger countries in Europe did this for different parts of their economy. Germany protected its manufacturing and let Frankfurt’s status as a financial centre fade. France protected its small farmers. Spain prioritised its fishing communities, and so on around Europe.

While the European Union has done much good, its record on fishing is pretty dire. The Common Fisheries Policy meets neither the needs of our fishing communities, nor does it protect our fish stocks. Allowing massive trawlers from all around Europe to come and fish out our waters does us no good, it does our environment no good, and it is a situation no one should support.

The European approach to fishing played a major role in Norway’s and Iceland’s choice to stay out of the European Union. Norway, in particular has developed an approach to fishing that has allowed its fishing communities to thrive while preserving its stocks. Now is the time for us to learn from that approach, which may allow both the regeneration of our fishing communities and the regeneration of our fishing stocks.

While the UK government is very active in Europe protecting the interests of big finance – vetoing regulation that might help to recover taxes being avoided by big business, it often fails to attend vital meetings on fisheries. The UK government showed no interest fishing communities it saw as far away from their priorities in the City of London. That’s why selling out fishing came so easy in the current negotiations. My preference would be that Scotland had a seat at the top table in Europe, so we could put the case for a more rational fishing policy. By taking a real interest in fishing we could change the policy approach – having our seat at the table would make that case all the stronger.

What the UK Government has left us with is the worst of both worlds: in the Common Fisheries Policy with no say over the Common Fisheries Policy. Being a law taker without being a law maker.

As much as I want an independent Scotland with the influence to change the Common Fisheries Policy for the better, the most important thing is that we find a way to improve the lot of our fishing industry. Whatever happens, we need to protect fish stocks and fishing communities. The Norwegian example offers us an avenue we must investigate. That’s something we now know we can’t rely on the UK government to do for us.

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Something for nothing, but only if you’re rich!

There have been so many responses to and analyses of George Osborne’s budget, so I won’t pretend that I can offer much new insight.  However, one thing struck me very plainly: the real ‘something for nothing’ culture is alive and well, supported by millionaires, for millionaires.  The cut in Inheritance Tax means that asset rich families will become asset richer, whilst those who can never hope to own significant assets do not see any benefit.  The message: if you have lots, you’ll be rewarded with more.

This is NOT the politics of community or the economics for people I want to see.

Snow firsts and non-snow non-firsts

All this snow has made for an interesting couple of days, and several firsts for me.  On Sunday, as I walked to Craighouse Campus (buses seemed to be having difficulty with the Edinburgh hills), I ate my first ever icicle.  It was cold, and watery, but an icicle none-the-less!  Yesterday, I spent most of the evening shovelling the cold, white stuff off the pavement outside my and my neighbours’ flats, something else I’d never done before.  I even managed to get a few sparks off the pavement with the shovel!  And today, I threw a snowball at the Scottish Parliament building, but more on that later!

I love snow, despite all the disruption it causes our busy lives.  But perhaps it is good to be forced to slow down a bit, to think carefully about what the day will bring, and to consider the effects of our movements on others in ways that we don’t usually have time for.

Sitting on the bus earlier, watching the white world go passed, I also decided to get back to my blog, which has been sadly neglected for a few months.  So, here goes …

Left/progressive political analysis worth a read

For the new year, a new blog …

Bright Green Scotland launched last week, promising news and analysis for Scotland’s green and progressive movement.  So far, there have been several interesting posts, discussing the Haiti earthquakes, city council cuts, and coalition politics in Ireland.  Some good stuff there – I wish the editorial team all the best, and recommend you give it a read.

Tears, snow, and settlement

Well, what a day that was. A 13 hour council meeting surely has to be some sort of record. Not only did we close four schools (so sorry to all those fantastic parents who fought right to the end), but we also agreed to privatise public services, and privatise the vast majority of home care services. And the Administration just don’t seem to get that they have really upset people … again.

But, enough depressing stuff for now … today saw the first proper snow in Edinburgh, and it looked pretty impressive from the council chamber (even if it was a wee bit chilly). I love the crunch of snow underfoot. It reminds me of the crunch of newly shooting grass in a burnt field, but then we don’t get much of that in Scotland. I’m still fascinated by the different types of snow … today’s was quite like little hail stone pellets – there must be a name for that. What ever it is, it was beautiful – just a shame it won’t be around for long.

I also became a permanent resident in the UK today – finally been granted settlement after a very long application process (not to mention the pointless ‘Life in the UK’ test). I have very mixed feelings about this: there has been something quite appealing about having no ‘home’ for the last 10 years, and I’m not sure how I feel about now having another point of separation from both Zimbabwe and South Africa.

So, an eventful day all round. Now time for bed – Henry is getting dark rings round his eyes, poor cat.