NFFO Response to the Interim Outcome of Consultation Report February 2009

23rd March 2009 in TACs and Quotas

The NFFO recently formally responded to the Scottish Executive’s “Interim Response” to its proposal for a separate quota management system in Scotland.

Our response is reproduced below.

NFFO Response to the Interim Outcome of Consultation Report February 2009

  • For the most part, the comments made in our response to the Scottish administration’s original consultation on a separate quota management system are still relevant and stand. (See NFFO News Article below 13/8/08)
  • We note that a number of adjustments have been made to some of the detailed arrangements proposed, including different variants on how to unilaterally define “Scottish” quota and to apply a Scottish economic link requirement to FQA units deemed to be Scottish
  • We remain of the view that this part of the proposal is almost certainly illegal, being outside the terms of the devolution settlement as defined in the Scotland Act
  • The paper posits two alternative ways of imposing Scottish economic link requirements: Either all FQAs transferred out of Scotland would have to be attached to an active Scottish licence and those seeking to employ the quota would have to lease it, or alternatively, an economic link applied through a dual system of licensing would compel vessels holding such units to meet certain licence conditions. The former is clearly outside the authority permitted under the Scotland Act and the latter would be highly bureaucratic, relatively easily circumvented, and if it hampered the businesses of the non-Scottish recipient, would also be in breach of the devolution settlement and probably also UK and EU trade law
  • To carry on regardless to unilaterally establish a separate quota system, on the lines outlined in the two consultation papers, in light of the clear and unequivocal legal advice that it would be outside the law, would be irresponsible and lead to unnecessary conflict at a time when a coherent, unified UK approach is paramount
  • We remain of the view that the moves towards a separate quota management system are driven primarily by narrow political considerations rather than what is desired by, or good for, the Scottish or any other part of the UK fishing industry
  • At a practical level there are fundamental problems with operating separate quota management systems within a single member state. Compensation and penalty arrangements, for example, demand a unified agreed approach that is simply more difficult and complex to apply with separate arrangements. A unified UK approach to negotiations with the European Commission would also be undermined.
  • We consider that the Interim Response deliberately underplays the strength of opinion against the establishment of a separate quota system in Scotland and completely ignores the views of organisations such as ours, based outside Scotland but with a major stake in the management of Scottish fisheries by virtue of our members’ interests in landing into Scottish ports, fishing in Scottish waters, membership of Scottish POs and registration in Scottish ports
  • The paper deliberately understates the significant quota transfers that have been made from other parts of the UK to the Scottish fleet over the last 15 years by using a narrow reference period amongst other devices
  • Decisions on a number of the more difficult issues touched on but not resolved in the original consultation have been parked, to be dealt with in some manner by a working group of indeterminate locus and composition.
  • All along we have taken the view that it is the Scottish industry that stands to lose as much as anyone out of this irresponsible adventurism
  • Perhaps in the long-term, the most damaging aspect of this politically inspired manoeuvre is that it has and will distract administrations and industry organisations from far more weighty issues such as cod recovery, effort control and a new control regulation, a new technical conservation regulation, loss of access issues and CFP reform

Clearly then we have major issues with the proposals.

However, our concerns have been eased considerably by the UK Fisheries Minister’s statement that the owners of fishing vessels that are defined as Scottish may at any stage re-register outside Scotland. That vessel will receive a licence from Defra / MFA along with the FQA units associated with the licence. That in effect provides a safety route for any vessel operator who feels that under the new regime in Scotland he or she will be subject to discriminatory treatment.

Nevertheless, despite this important safeguard, we consider that the proposals if implemented would have considerable disruptive consequences for our member’s commercial activities.

On receipt of our original response, the Scottish Executive offered the opportunity to discuss the issues arising from the Scottish proposals. This commitment has never been followed through and despite our status as a significant stakeholder in Scotland’s fisheries we have been effectively disenfranchised and excluded.

Against this background we would urge the Scottish Executive to reengage with other UK administrations and the UK industry on the development of improved and modernised quota management and licensing arrangements.