First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not be the one having to “convince” North East voters and fisherman “betrayed” by Brexit why the SNP should have their vote
Ms Sturgeon was speaking to journalists at an event where she unveiled her plans to enact a second referendum on Scottish independence in the early part of her next parliament.
Asked how she planned on convincing North East voters who may have voted in favour of leaving the EU in 2016, Ms Sturgeon said the “utter betrayal” of the fishing industry since leaving the transition period would have an impact on the Scottish Conservative vote than the SNP.
Fisherman and the fishing industry said they had lost millions of pounds in revenue since the beginning of the year, after the UK left the transition period, calling the promises made by the Westminster government on fishing a “betrayal”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously called the issues “teething problems” before establishing a £23 million compensation scheme for those worst hit.
Asked how she would convince those in the fishing industry who disliked the Common Fisheries Policy that Scottish Independence and re-entry to the EU would be best for them, Ms Sturgeon said there would need to be changes made from within, which they could do as an independent state.
She said: “I’m not sure it is me who has the biggest problem in convincing fisherman in this election.
“I heard a clip on Radio Clyde with Douglas Ross who was taken to task by a fisherman who said he had voted Tory all his life and he felt ‘utterly betrayed’.
“I always believed what the Tories were offering on fishing could not be delivered.
“What they were offering – all of the benefits of membership in terms of our ability to export and trade with complete and utter control of our waters – what has been offered since then is a complete and utter betrayal of the industry.
“I expect it is being felt very acutely. I expect Tory campaigners the length and breadth of the country, but in particular the North East, are finding that at the moment.”
Common Fisheries Policy ‘far from perfect’
Ms Sturgeon said they would plan on re-entering the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), despite it being “far from perfect”.
She added: “We do want Scotland to be an independent member of the EU, and would accept all our responsibilities and obligations as an EU member.
“Being in the EU gives us much greater influence and ability to seek reforms and changes than you have when you are outside to EU.
“What our fishing communities are finding out right now is they were sold a lie during the Brexit referendum and in the aftermath of it (the Brexit referendum) they have been utterly betrayed.
“I am paraphrasing here what some of those in the fishing industry said at the turn of the year, after the end of the transition period, is that what many of them have in many respects is a situation even worse than what they had in the CFP.
“The SNP is a long-standing critic of the CFP, from back when the Tories were almost enthusiastic advocates of it.
“We don’t think it (CFP) is perfect, far far from it. We think there are reforms needed to it. Some of the reforms made in recent years were things we argued for. But I don’t think anyone can argue the fishing industry has been delivered anything like they were promised would happen as a result of Brexit.”
Compensation scheme ‘right’ says Douglas Ross
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross denied Brexit had been a “disaster” but acknowledged the compensation scheme set up to help the fishing industry was the right thing to do.
Speaking on our Election Hub Live politics newscast, Mr Ross said: “I am sure we will speak about Brexit (with coastal communities) and the impact that has had on fishing communities.
“I’ve discussed this a lot, it was one of the first visits I had on the campaign, a virtual round-table with those in the fishing industry in the North East.
“There is work ongoing with the compensation scheme, which is there to support fisherman who have lost out and I am determined to continue to work with individual fisherman with the sector and industry in general to resolve the issues which are affecting many in the North East and across Scotland.”
He continued: “There are ongoing issues with red-tape and bureaucracy which we have to solve. We have our two governments working together in a joint taskforce which also includes industry representation.
“I called for the compensation scheme. I think it was right we compensated those who had lost out as a result of this.
“But fisherman don’t just want to be compensated, they want to be able to sell their excellent produce in the EU and markets beyond the EU and we have to do everything possible to streamline that.”