Ian Blackford has slammed the Brexit fisheries deal as an “enormous con job” with key fishing stocks reportedly at risk. It comes as the Scottish Parliament is expected to refuse consent to the Brexit trade deal in a vote today.
Fishermen’s leaders have previously accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of betraying the industry in the compromise struck with Brussels over future fishing rights in UK waters.
And on Tuesday analysis from the Scottish Government suggested key fishing stocks landed by the Scottish fleet are set to fall as a result of the deal.
Decreases in the maximum percentage of total EU and UK quota available to the UK have been estimated for haddock and cod in waters such as the North Sea.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, Mr Blackford said: “We’ve been told by the Tories over the course of the last four and a half years a lot of this was to do with fishing, it was about taking back control of the sea of opportunity, as they called it.
“We now know that nothing could be further from the truth – we know from the analysis that’s been done on the deal that in the key fishing stocks of cod and Haddock for example we’ll either be catching less fish or no more fish.
“This has been an enormous con job and you are really left asking the question – what is this about if the benefits that were supposed to be accrued to us are not going to take place?
“The fact is that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the moment is a better deal than what we’re going to get with this, but the failure of the UK Government has been to prioritise fishing over a long number of decades.
“Certainly an independent Scotland in the EU would make sure that we were working with other coastal nations to give us the opportunity that we need to be to grow our fishing communities, to make sure that we have a sustainable future for that industry.”
The UK Government’s Scottish Secretary Alister Jack also appeared on the programme and highlighted that not all white fish figures will fall.
The Scottish Government’s analysis supported this, suggesting increases for West of Scotland haddock, saithe and whiting among other fish.
Mr Jack said: “Cod is going down but actually finally cod has lost its Marine Stewardship Council accreditation last year and the numbers are of concern.
“Herring numbers go up 10% and there’s give and take there, but the broad picture is that over the next five years our quota will increase by 25% and we start from a baseline of just over 50%, remember.
“We will also see next year alone an increase of 15% so this is a very good deal… It takes us, as I see it, five and a half years to total freedom in our negotiations – actually the agreement provides for quota transfers between the UK and the EU as part of the annual negotiations from year one.
“This is a deal that does well for the whole industry – we can’t just be all about the deep sea fishermen, it has to be the coastal fishermen, it has to be the shellfish producers, it has to take into account aquaculture.
“Also the processors and the merchants now have a deal that’s tariff-free and quota-free into the EU, so this industry as a whole benefits, it’s not just all at the expense of one sector of the industry.”
The Scottish Parliament is expected to refuse consent to the Brexit trade deal in a vote on Wednesday.
The SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens have already outlined their decision not to back the agreement, meaning it is unable to gain a majority unless MSPs break the party line.
A debate is due to be held in Holyrood on Wednesday afternoon before the vote.
The legislative consent motion lodged at the Scottish Parliament states that the government should not consent to the “inadequate and damaging” Brexit deal with the EU.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Parliament, like the people of Scotland, has consistently voiced support for Scotland’s membership of the EU and – since the 2016 referendum – for single market and customs union membership.
“The question before the Scottish Parliament is not about this deal or no deal, but whether this deal is good or bad for Scotland.
“The Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament consistently suggested alternatives. While recognising the UK would leave the EU, we proposed staying in the single market and customs union.
“The UK Government dismissed these ideas. It disregarded Scotland’s views, values and interests. It has agreed a deal which is disastrous for Scotland.
“The UK Government’s deal will impose costs on businesses, reduce the opportunities of its citizens, and sacrifice its own international influence – in order to gain powers it will struggle to use.
“Even for the fishing industry – perhaps the only sector that genuinely believed that Brexit would deliver benefits – this deal represents a massive sell out and broken promise.
“The result is a deal which is harmful for the UK as a whole – but perhaps especially harmful for Scotland. It should not receive the Scottish Parliament’s consent.”