Call for ‘full’ transparency on fish row

Scottish Conservative fisheries spokesman Peter Chapman
Scottish Conservative fisheries spokesman Peter Chapman

Scottish Conservative fisheries spokesman Peter Chapman has called for “full transparency” after an SNP minister refused to divulge details of any enforcement action in the Rockall fishing dispute.

The Scottish and Irish governments have been in talks to try to resolve a row over fishing rights in the 12 mile area around the islet in the North Atlantic.

Irish crews have been accused of making incursions into Scottish territorial waters, but the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted the fishing grounds are part of EU waters

Mr Chapman asked External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop for an update on the use of patrol boast at general question in Holyrood today.

The North East region MSP also asked what enforcement action has been taken and how many Irish vessels had been boarded and checked.

In response, however, Ms Hyslop said that the government “continued to monitor the situation” but would not discuss “specifics of deployment of surveillance assets”.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Chapman said: “I am very disappointed with the response from the minister.

“We know the number of Irish boats fishing around Rockall increased from 15 in 2014 to 94 in the last year.

“Even two Irish international maritime law experts agree that this is unlawful and should be stopped.

“We have to take a firm line in these situations, particularly as we prepare to leave the EU and become an independent coastal state,” he continued.

“It is not acceptable for ministers to operate under a veil of secrecy.

“There should be full transparency on what enforcement action is being taken and whether Irish vessels are being boarded,” he added.