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Former Prime Minister John Major is right to call the UK government’s White Paper on Brexit ‘flimsy’, and it certainly is for Scotland’s fishermen, farmers and crofters.
For such an important all-encompassing issue as Brexit, all they dedicate to agriculture is 193 words and only 152 to fishing.
But it is just 37 words on agriculture and 22 words on fishing that will raise alarm bells for fishermen, farmers and crofters.
On fishing it says: ‘It is in both our interests to reach a mutually beneficial deal that works for the UK and the EU’s fishing communities.’
That sounds nowhere like the appeal the leave campaign presented when they said ‘opening up of British waters to EU in the 1970s had a devastating effect’. Sounds like they will continue with this devastating effect.
Scottish fishermen will remember that the 1972 UK government took them into the CFP had an internal Scottish Office paper saying they were ‘expendable’ and estimated that up to half of them could lose their jobs.
Scottish fishermen now face the bizarre position that just as the UK government sold out Scottish fishermen going into Europe, it will sell them out to leave. Maybe other interests like getting other EU states’ support to lobby for the banks in the City of London to still have free access to the EU market or a car factory in an area that voted 63 per cent leave.
On agriculture it says: ‘With EU spend on CAP at around 58 billion euros in 2014 (nearly 40 per cent of the EU’s budget), leaving the EU offers the UK a significant opportunity to design new, better and more efficient policies.’ That doesn’t sound like the promise Tory farming minister George Eustice gave when he told farmers ‘that the UK government will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support – or perhaps even more – as they get now’.
‘Efficient policies’ rings like those government weasel words of ‘efficiency savings’ – or cuts.
Under the 1998 Scotland Act, any powers not specifically reserved to Westminster automatically devolve to the Scottish Parliament. Yet Theresa May is now signalling she will break this principle and take those powers back under central control.
Considering Mrs May is desperate for a trade deal with Donald Trump which could open up the UK to American produce, this will set alarm bells ringing for Scotch quality producers. Why else would Mrs May want agricultural policy in the hands of Westminster?
This May there are local elections and Scotland’s fishing and agricultural communities can send a message to the UK government that they will not be taken for expendable again or be taken for fools by the use of weasel words about efficiency – cuts by any other name – and not have their industry opened up to a trade deal with Trump’s America.
Dealbhadh Croite, by Benderloch.