The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) has written to First Minister Alex Salmond seeking clarification over comments he made in a recent speech concerning fishery access to Scottish waters should there be independence.
Speaking to the College of Europe in Bruges, the First Minister suggested that if EU membership was not inherited after Scotland became independent, then fishing fleets from other EU member states could be denied access to Scottish waters.
SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong, said: “As an organisation we are apolitical and are adopting a neutral position in the referendum debate.
“But we have been charged by our membership to ask questions and seek clarity over issues raised in the debate, so as to enable individual fishermen to make their own minds up.
“This is why we have written to the First Minister seeking clarification about some of the comments made in his Bruges speech. In particular, we are interested in expansion on his comment that if Scotland were denied EU entry, then this could lead to the fishing fleets of 12 countries being denied any access to Scottish waters and as a consequence, their access to Norwegian waters, which is also dependent on Scottish access.”
Mr Armstrong said this raised a number of questions. For example, prohibiting the passage of EU fishing vessels on their way to the Norwegian zone would appear to be contrary to the principle of Innocent Passage as laid down by the law of the sea.
Clarification is also being sought on whether a risk assessment has been made for fishing over EU accession negotiations , as well as 18 month timescale that has been suggested for such negotiations.
The letter says: “Our own experience is that timescales are notoriously prone to slippage. A recent and relevant example is the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, an important but routine, predictable event which overran its three year process by two additional years.”
The letter adds: “Given that there will be negotiation and, as you clearly recognise, fishing will be an important part of that, is there are a risk of a worse end point for Scottish fishing than the status quo?”
The letter also asks for clarification over the position regarding the rebate of Scotland’s EU contributions and its impact on access to funding.