A great deal of the environmental legislation that protects our marine environment comes from the European Union. The best way to ensure that we continue building on the progress that has already been made is to protect Scotland’s place within the EU.
Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, including in Aberdeenshire and the Western Isles, where fishing is still a big part of the rural economy. My colleagues in the Scottish Government are focused on doing all that they can to give effect to the democratic will of the Scottish people and to maintain our relationship with the EU.
I am particularly concerned about the impact of the UK leaving the EU on the Scottish seafood sector. Scotland’s food and drink industries are a prime example of the benefits of trading without barriers across Europe and seafood is by far our largest food export. Scotland exported £438m of fish and seafood to EU countries in 2015, while £77m of EU investment has created or safeguarded 2,000 jobs in the industry since 2007.
Furthermore, Scotland should receive €107m from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, 46% of the UK allocation, by 2023 – investment that is jeopardised by Brexit. Without tariff-free access to trade with the EU, rural Scotland would risk losing vital trade that sustains thousands of jobs as well as the EU investment that supports our seafood and agricultural industries. We need to protect these interests and it is my view that they can be best served by exploring all options to protect our relationship with the European Union.