25 Wallace View
John J.G. McGill, FSA Scot.
The Scotland-UN Committee
Tel: (01563) 528 505
17 May 2003
Dr. Franz Fischler
Commissioner for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development
Commission of the European Union
Dear Commissioner Fischler,
The Scotland-UN Committee was established in 1979 as a national
non-party think-tank and international action group for the purpose of
having the ancient Scottish Parliament recalled. That objective having
been successfully accomplished, the committee has been kept in existence
in order to perform the same function in respect of other aspects of
Scottish national affairs that call for international action. We have
accordingly taken up the issue of the current fisheries crisis, at the
request of some sectors of the industry as well as the relevant
political actors. We append a copy of a paper we commissioned from two
experts on an appropriate fisheries policy by the Scottish Government.
This analysis was intended for domestic circulation within Scotland, and
not for international use, but we send it for your information.
Our researches into the economic impact of the Common Fisheries Policy
on the Scottish national economy have brought to light a scandal on a
scale that is as horrifying as it is disgraceful. We can only assume
that you are unaware of the extent of the economic devastation that the
EU fisheries policy has caused in Scotland.
Scotland joined the European Economic Community in 1973 along with the
other members of the British political union. Although the Scottish
fishing industry represents three quarters of the United Kingdom
industry, its affairs are conducted in Europe to this day largely by
English politicians and administrators, who found no difficulty in
“giving it away” as a bargaining counter on other unrelated issues. The
well-conserved reserves of fish stocks in Scottish waters at first ran
down only slowly under the increased pressures in a Community of nine
members. The real deterioration began after 1975, and accelerated from
around 1980. We therefore used 1975 as the baseline for the figures we
published in the policy paper.
These show that, since joining the Common Fisheries Policy, the Scottish
fishing fleet has been reduced by almost two thirds of its 1975 size –
for no better reason than to “share the common resource” with other EU
members. Since equality is ostensibly the raison d’etre behind this
policy, perhaps you will be good enough inform us when you propose to
reduce the Spanish and French fleets by the same proportion – two thirds
- in order to solve the problem of too many boats chasing too few fish.
The figures we have given in the policy paper must be updated in one
respect. In the light of the most recent decommissioning figures for
2003 available to us (177 boats), by the end of the year the Scottish
fishing fleet will have been reduced to 668 boats of 10 metres and over
in length, by comparison with 1,782 in 1975.
Using the same criterion as in the policy paper, i.e. average earnings
over the past five years, the 1,114 vessels removed from the fleet over
this period would each have earned more than £310,000 (€431,000)
annually from some 330 tonnes of fish. As a direct result of the removal
of this earning capacity (whether officially decommissioned or sold
under economic pressure is irrelevant), the loss to the Scottish
catching sector for boats of 10 metres and over is currently in excess
of £345 million (€479 million) every year, with corresponding downstream
effects on the vessel servicing industries and all the other recipients
of domestic expenditure from crew wages.
This, of course, is not the full extent of the disaster, because fish
processing, marketing, boat building and the other ancillary industries
have all been hit by the loss of their supplies and their clients. The
standard GDP impact ratio for fisheries is 2.35 times the landed price
for fish. The identifiable loss to the Scottish national economy as a
result of the catastrophic damage caused by the Common Fisheries Policy
is therefore a minimum of £812 million (€1,128 million) every year in
respect of vessels of 10 metres and over.
We must make it clear that these figures are minimum ones, since they
are the only ones we could base on statistical information. It was
impossible to obtain accurate statistics over the CFP period for coastal
and inshore boats smaller than 10 metres, which we know have also been
badly hit. A good deal of the known factors could not be quantified.
Other economic fallout includes the cost to public funds of unemployment
and other social benefits as well as broader economic consequences,
including loss of tax income, and much more besides.
The current real loss to the Scottish economy arising from the reduction
of the Scottish fishing fleet by around two thirds of its 1975 figure,
as a result of the damage caused by the Common Fisheries Policy, must
now be well in excess of £1,000 million (€1,389 million) every year.
This exceeds by a huge margin any economic benefits Scotland receives
from the European Union.
No country of five million people can stand an economic haemorrhage on
this scale indefinitely, especially following on other euro-crimes like
the “rationalisation” out of existence of the profitable and efficient
Scottish steel industry, with knock-on effects on the famous Scottish
shipbuilding industry (importing steel – not the lightest of materials –
involves heavy transport oncosts, especially to an island location). On
fishing policy, miniscule EU payments like decommissioning and
retraining grants hardly appear in the balance against the costs to
Scotland of what is nothing less than barefaced exploitation. We cannot
conceive of any calculable benefits to Scotland of EU membership that
can possibly compensate for this economic bloodletting.
* * * * *
This is clearly not the
kind of Europe that was envisaged by Robert Schumann, Jean Monnet or
Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi – Europe as a piratical oppressor and
plunderer of its people’s national resources. The situation is clearly
grossly unjust, and we have a right to know what you intend to do to
compensate and to restore the Scottish fishing industry to its previous
economically healthy size and status.
To date we have seen no indication that this goal is likely to be
achieved, least of all through the Commission’s published proposals for
the reform of the CFP. We have studied these proposals with care and,
notwithstanding several positive aspects, we find them totally
inadequate both as a means of dealing with the current crisis and as a
basis for a structure capable of ensuring long-term security for the
fishing industry together with its downstream and ancillary industries
and the communities dependent on it.
In our opinion, the proposals fail to demonstrate the kind of radical
thinking that the situation demands. Furthermore, they bear no relation
to good management or conservation, but are based purely and simply on
the same mindless centralist ideology that has failed conspicuously over
the past three decades, as it also did after 70 years of experience
within the Soviet Union.
The first thing that has to be recognised as a fact – and there is no
sign of any such awareness in the Commission’s proposals – is that the
principle of opening all waters to all Community vessels without
restriction is already dead. That mendacious ideology never had anything
to do with management or conservation. These have at best been advanced
as alibis to justify nationalist greed, mostly by member states that had
already gutted their own waters by overfishing. The current state of cod
stocks in the North Sea has shown where this policy has led, even in a
period of transitional restrictions.
There is no sign here of any recognition by the Commission and Council
of Fisheries Ministers that their record in this field has been one of
abysmal, disastrous failure of a magnitude that, in the private sector,
would result in the dismissal of an entire management and the drastic
restructuring or winding up of the organisation concerned.
The positive aspects of the proposals have not been lost on us. For
example, we approve of the proposals for regional fishing management
structures for the transnational aspects of conservation and management,
and especially of the predominance of practical fishermen in their
membership, but we strongly object to their proposed status as “regional
These bodies must not be subject to control from Brussels, but must be
completely autonomous management authorities responsible only to the
national governments whose waters they cover. Any such central control
would be in conflict with the basic principles of federal government and
in any case could serve no useful purpose, since Brussels would be
totally dependent on the expertise and judgement of the regional
authorities, who alone would be acquainted with local conditions.
We also note that the Commission’s proposals adopt the principle of
priority of access to marine resources by local fishing interests, with
outsiders being admitted only where resources surplus to sustainable
local catching capacity are available. This perfectly reasonable
principle has, however, been adopted only in respect of third states
whose waters are fished by Community vessels. This same principle must
now be applied by the Community internally, in respect of all Community
waters out to the 200-mile or median limits.
Such positive examples apart, what concerns us is that the proposals
ignore a number of factors that are of central importance if the future
of any kind of viable fishing industry is to be guaranteed.
For example, with the exception of distant-water vessels, there is no
justification for any EU member state maintaining a fishing fleet with a
catching capacity that exceeds the renewable resources of its own
territorial waters. Anything in excess of this is simply a means of
preying on other members, to the detriment of employment there, with the
resulting negative economic, social and cultural effects on fishing
communities that Scotland has already experienced.
Furthermore, all member states must be forced to conserve the resources
of their own waters – and if those waters are overfished (as is widely
the case, especially in the southern EU member states), there can be no
question of admitting that country’s fleet to the national waters of
other members in order to compensate for its mismanagement.
In these respects it would be expedient for the EU to retain a police
function, as well as for the regulation of distant-water fishing by
Community vessels, in agreement with non-EU countries.
The worst offenders with grossly excessive capacities (meaning Spain in
the first instance) must have their fleets reduced accordingly. We are
sympathetic towards those countries that are experiencing problems of
unemployment, with which we ourselves are not unacquainted. We would
point out, however, that no treaty empowers the European Union to create
unemployment in one member state in order to benefit employment in
another. The present fisheries “policy” is therefore blatantly illegal
in this respect. Not only must the policy itself be reversed; the
adverse consequences that that policy has had for the Scottish national
fishing industry must also be made good in their entirety.
Apart from such strategic functions the European Union definitely has no
business to be involved in the direct management and conservation of
fisheries – or indeed the direct management of any industry or economic
sector! That is not a legitimate function of the Union! Its proven
record in this respect is in any case one of unmitigated, disastrous
Furthermore, there is no such thing as a homogeneous European fishing
industry that would be capable of being managed on a central basis.
There is therefore no way that such centralised management could
possibly cope with the different conditions in an enlarged Community,
with two dozen states fishing for a vast range of regionally unique
commercial species in the Baltic, North Sea, Atlantic, Mediterranean,
Adriatic and Black Seas, and with considerable divergences of local
economic, social and cultural conditions and fish consumption patterns.
Not even with the aid of regional “advisory” committees would it be
possible to conduct such a system with any degree of homogeneity. The
only answer here is the abolition of the CFP as such and the transfer of
its powers back to where they belong at national and regional level.
Fishing is not a suitable area for European integration. Somewhere there
must be limits to integration, and fishing has been proved by experience
to be well beyond those limits. The European Union is overstretched
here, and must confine its activities to those areas where integration
is patently feasible.
The current disaster to fish stocks is not something that has “just
happened”. There was never any problem of this nature before the
involvement of the European Community in fishing. It is a direct result
of the ideology of unrestricted freedom of access to all waters, and
there will be no improvement until this purely ideological “policy” is
abandoned and reversed.
Let nobody be under any illusions regarding the strength of feeling
within the Scottish fishing industry and the country at large, where
there has recently been an upsurge of sometimes virulent anti-EU
feeling. Any talk of a “European Ideal” is regarded here as hypocritical
whitewash. There is nothing whatever idealistic about the “European
Ideal”. In practice, as applied to fishing, it has proved to be simply a
tool of nationalist intrigue, with commercial interests running rampant
at the cost of destroying centuries-old fishing communities.
We hold the European Commission and the Council of Fisheries Ministers
entirely responsible for the disastrous decline of fish stocks and for
the completely unnecessary rundown of our national fishing industry.
We hold the European Union responsible, not merely for compensating for
this damage, but also for reversing its effects, leading to the
systematically planned restoration of the Scottish fishing industry to
its pre-1975 status as regards catching capacity and employment
prospects. We expect you to publish a road map to this goal as soon as
We observe a close parallel here to the attitude of the old guard of the
Soviet system, who, after seven decades of obvious failure, were still
protesting that their ideological centralist system was the right one
and only needed time to prove itself. If this stubborn refusal by the
European Commission and Council of Ministers to face up to the reality
of the present untenable situation continues, then some kind of
unilateral action will be necessary along the lines of that adopted by
Iceland to protect its fisheries from being exhausted by foreign
We say this to the Commission and Council of Fisheries Ministers: You
have cut a swathe of destruction through a fishing industry that had
remained balanced and viable for centuries prior to your interference.
You have devastated communities, you have caused immense misery and
personal hardship to individuals and families, you have destroyed
age-old cultures, and you have upset the entire ecological balance of
the waters on which we depend for our livelihood. We have no faith in
your competence, we have no faith in your intentions, and we have the
deepest distrust of your motives.
We therefore have one simple message for “Europe”: Give Scotland the
means to rectify the appalling ecological, environmental, economic and
social havoc that your fisheries “policy” has caused here – and then get
out of our lives!
There is another aspect of this orgy of mismanagement, incompetence and
political corruption on which we must make our position clear: We have
reason to believe that the United Kingdom government representatives
have been using the fishing industry as a bargaining counter in
EU-internal and other negotiations. Let us make it abundantly clear that
the Scottish fishing industry is not going to be used as a trade-off in
order to buy negotiating concessions in other unrelated fields. We
hereby reject and disavow absolutely any and all steps that the United
Kingdom representatives have taken along these lines from the basic EEC
entry negotiations right to the present day as well as any that may be
taken in the future. We regard all such agreements on fishing that have
been taken without the consent of the Scottish fishing industry and the
Scottish Parliament as invalid, and we refuse to consider Scotland bound
by them. We regard any collusion along these lines by the United Kingdom
government with any other member state, or with the Community as a
whole, as an illegal action that also renders the negotiators personally
responsible for the consequential losses suffered by the fishing
In this connection we have noted the circumstances surrounding the
replacement of the previous Fisheries General Director after verbal
representations by the Spanish Prime Minister to the Commission
We must also make it clear that, in stating the above, we are not
adopting a purely negative approach to the European Union or to the
integration process as a whole. In the light of international
developments over the past few decades, with the emergence of global and
regional structures, we accept the necessity of European integration in
specific areas where it is clearly appropriate as a means of
guaranteeing the maintenance of good governance.
Fishing, however, is not one of those areas, as has been proved by the
disastrous developments over the past 30 years. Integration here has had
an entirely negative effect without a single redeeming feature. It has
proved to be the reverse of good governance, and in the case of Scotland
it has destroyed a conservation balance that had previously been
maintained for centuries. Three decades is long enough to prove that
this brainless ideology does not work and can never work.
There is only one answer to this situation: With the exception of the
strategic police functions mentioned above, control of fishing must be
returned to national governments and regional fishing councils. National
fleets, with catching capacities balanced in relation to their own
sustainable national resources, must normally be restricted to fishing
their own waters, with special licences to fish in other national waters
being subject to the availability of marine resources there that are
surplus to the sustainable catching capacities of the local fishing
* * * * *
Time is running out for
the EU on this issue. We intend to pursue this matter with the
Intergovernmental Conference in 2004, but at the same time we must make
it clear that matters may be taken out of the hands of the European
Union. Separatism is not a viable political option nowadays, and there
is no question of Scotland attempting to exist in isolation outside the
European structures. Having made that clear, however, we have
recommended to all of the Scottish political parties that, on the
resumption of constitutional independence, Scotland should withdraw from
the European Union and participate in European affairs through
membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the
European Economic Area (EEA), thereby giving it the same status as the
fishing countries Iceland and Norway.
The Scottish elections on 1 May 2003 resulted in the return of an
unprecedented number of members of the Scottish Parliament committed to
full independence. Three of the political parties represented there have
adopted constitutional independence as a main policy goal, and it is a
strong theme running through the remainder, including the non-party
independent members. Scotland is presently a member of two political
unions, British and European, but - largely as a reaction to the
fisheries policy that you are pursuing - it may well secede from both
unions within the foreseeable future. You have it in your power to
influence such a course of events one way or the other.
We will not have to emphasise that, since around one third of the fish
resources in the North-East Atlantic and North Sea fall within the
Scottish legal jurisdiction, this would effectively mean the end of the
Common Fisheries Policy. There is no such thing as a British or United
Kingdom legal jurisdiction over those resources (we suspect that you may
have been misled on this point), since under the terms of the Treaty of
Union between Scotland and England the Scottish and English legal
jurisdictions remain entirely independent of each other.
We would point out particularly in this connection that Scotland’s
opinion has never been invited on the question of open access to its
The initiative therefore lies in your hands. We in Scotland have come to
the end of our patience – and of our tolerance. There can be no question
of leaving the matter in its present state. We are not interested in
half measures like the useless tinkering with the CFP that you are
presently proposing. There must be a planned and incisive restoration of
the Scottish fishing industry to its pre-1975 capacity and status. The
European Community has caused the damage, and the European Community
must bear the burden of restoration. We look forward to hearing your
proposals to this end.
For and on behalf of the Scotland-UN Committee,
John J.G. McGill, FSA Scot.