Millions allocated to support UK fisheries, but Scotland aggrieved

Published on
September 15, 2021
Scottish fishing vessels tied up at the dock.

A fund in the United Kingdom is beginning to disburse funds intended to support research that will improve fishery sustainability and productivity, but Scottish officials have condemned the fund as a confusing “one-size-fits-all” approach that misses the mark on what the Scottish seafood industry needs.

Fishing businesses in the U.K. have been given access to GBP 24 million (USD 33.2 million, EUR 28.2 million) of investments to develop technology, trial new gear, and to support research that improves the industry’s productivity and long-term sustainability. The new fund has been divided into three pillars focusing on science and innovation, infrastructure investments, and skills and training support to upskill the sector to ensure workers with the right skills are available.

This latest funding released by the U.K. government to support better science and innovation projects is the first part of the GBP 100 million (USD 138.3 million, EUR 117.4 million) U.K. Seafood Fund designed to level up coastal communities across the country.

According to the government, it will ensure the industry is able to process more fish landed in the U.K. and will create more job opportunities across the supply chain. It will also upskill the workforce and train new entrants and invest in new fishing technologies.

“Over the last nine months, we have taken some important steps in the right direction for our fishing industry,” U.K. Environment Secretary George Eustice said. “We’ve taken our independent seat at the regional fisheries management organizations, we have agreed a quota exchange mechanism, and we have seen an uplift in quota for U.K. vessels … Now, this major investment will benefit coastal communities up and down the U.K. The first investment from our GBP 100 million Seafood Fund will boost science and innovation in the fishing industry, and, coupled with our Fisheries Act, help us ensure that we have the most sustainable fleet in the world.”

U.K. Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid, said that from “extensive engagement” with the Scottish seafood industry, he knew that the GBP 100 million fund has been “eagerly anticipated.” He also welcomed the news that the first tranche of funding will boost the industry's innovation and sustainability initiatives.

“The U.K. government has been steadfast in support of an industry pivotal to the well-being of coastal communities, and we are determined all sectors – catching and processing – should be able to maximize the opportunities now before us. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Scottish seafood and aquaculture sectors to ensure this fresh funding drives the industry to new heights,” he said.

However, the Scottish government has condemned the fund. In a statement, Scotland Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said it “tramples all over the devolution settlement,” and risks confusion and duplication through a “one-size-fits-all approach” by a government that does not understand the unique needs of the Scottish industry.

“It’s greatly frustrating that consistent calls for this funding to be administered in a way that respects the devolved settlement have been disregarded,” she said. “The Scottish government has not even been invited to be involved in the development of the first pillar of the scheme, and detail was shared very late in the day.”

Gougeon said she has also written to U.K. Fisheries and Food Minister Victoria Prentis to express the Scottish government’s disappointment on the exclusion of Scottish officials.

“The Scottish government has already had to pick up the pieces to support the seafood sector after weeks of pain, stress, anger, and financial detriment caused by the disastrous E.U. exit deal,” she said. “Fisheries is an area wholly devolved to the Scottish government; we must therefore be the decision makers on investments in our valued seafood sector.”  

Photo courtesy of Loren London/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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