The EU referendum has handed the Scottish fishing industry an unparalleled opportunity to deliver a significant boost to investment and employment for our fragile coastal communities, say Scottish fishing leaders ahead of tomorrow’s (27 September) Holyrood parliamentary debate on Brexit and Scotland’s rural economy.

In a briefing paper for MSPs, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and Scottish Association of Fish Producer’s Organisations says the 200 miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that will come into operation following the UK leaving the EU contains some of the most productive, valuable and diverse fisheries found anywhere in the world.

But at the moment well over half of the fish caught in this zone are caught by non-UK vessels.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, says: “By insisting on fairer shares of catching opportunities in these waters, with a more effective fisheries management regime geared to business and environmental sustainability, the Scottish government could impart powerful momentum to coastal and island communities at no cost to the taxpayer. The government might also wish to ‘top up’ this impetus with grant funding into innovation and areas of strategic interest.

“Unlike many other industries based on the use of natural resources, responsibly managed fish catching could underpin coastal and island communities indefinitely. A reinvigorated catching sector could be expected to generate significant knock-on effects in investment and employment onshore, from marine engineering and electronics to seafood processing and distribution.

“But to achieve this sea of opportunity for our coastal communities would require the Scottish and UK governments to prevent access to our fishing grounds being conceded as part of the Brexit negotiations. Control over access is the most powerful means we have of ensuring that our own natural resources are allocated fairly and to the best possible use.”