SNP SLAM UK GOVERNMENT FOR SENDING INEXPERIENCED AND UNELECTED TORY PEER TO EU FISHERY NEGOTIATIONS
Friday, 14 November 2014 09:14
Scottish National Party MSP Angus MacDonald has highlighted at First Minister Alex Salmond’s last ever First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood that the UK Government sent inexperienced and unelected Lord Rupert Charles Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley to represent Scots fishermen at vital EU fishery negotiations to discuss deep sea catch quotas which are vital to Scotland’s fishing industry, despite the Scottish Government’s Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead, the most experienced in Europe, being present at the talks.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday (13/11/14) Angus MacDonald, SNP MSP for Falkirk East asked:
“To ask the First Minister what response he has received from the Prime Minister to his recent correspondence regarding European Council fisheries negotiations. (S4F-02378)
The First Minister responded:
” I have had a totally unsatisfactory response from the Prime Minister. At Monday’s agriculture and fisheries council meeting, the main issue of fisheries policy under discussion was the deep-sea stock regulation. Scotland has a dominant interest in that activity; landings of the species concerned by vessels that are members of Scottish producer organisations represent in the region of 95 per cent of all United Kingdom landings this year.
“In my view, which is supported by the Labour Party on this occasion, it was absurd that the Prime Minister put the interests of this vital Scottish industry in the hands of an unelected peer—Lord Rupert Ponsonby, the seventh Baron de Mauley. The key thing about Baron de Mauley is that he has no interest or experience whatsoever in fisheries. The fact that that breaks a clear commitment given by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in 2010 is totally unacceptable but, in the light of the Conservative Party’s attitude to wider issues in Scotland, perhaps not totally surprising.”
Angus MacDonald continued:
“Does the First Minister agree that if we are a “family of nations”, as David Cameron has described the UK, it is only right that the UK Government should respect the devolution settlement as it affects foreign policy, particularly on issues of such importance to Scotland as fisheries, in the same way as states such as Belgium have done for some time?
The First Minister replied:
“Yes, I do. That is exactly the point that was raised at the joint ministerial committee on Europe back in 2010. As the Europe minister, Fiona Hyslop attended that meeting, so she can verify everything that I have to say.
“When the position was explained with regard to how few times Scottish ministers were able to represent key Scottish interests in arguing for a UK position in the fishing negotiations, the then incoming Prime Minister said that he would put that right; he said that he could see the strongest argument for that happening on key issues. However, it has happened once over the past four years, although Richard Lochhead has attended each and every fisheries council and is by far the most experienced fisheries minister in the European continent, never mind in these islands.
“It is totally unacceptable that a commitment that was so blithely given in 2010 should not be adhered to in a vital negotiation in 2014. As I said, there might be a lesson for Scotland in wider matters that, unless the Prime Minister’s feet are held to the fire, commitments will not be redeemed.”
The First Minister told Cameron in an angry letter that it was “simply absurd” to put former banker de Mauley in charge. He said the “unelected peer” had “absolutely no experience or prior involvement” in fisheries talks, while Lochhead had been dealing with the issues for more than seven years.
In the letter Alex Salmond reminded Cameron he had agreed in 2010 that Scottish ministers could speak for the UK at fisheries meetings.
And Salmond told the Prime Minister he had broken those “personal undertakings” and made “a total mockery of your more recent pledges to Scotland during the referendum campaign”.
Salmond said the Con-Dem Government, which has suffered a succession of embarrassing defeats in talks in Brussels, had “already demonstrated why it cannot be relied upon in EU negotiations”.