Scottish Fisheries Secretary calls on the UK Government to consider withdrawing seafood scheme

News
352

Fergus Ewing wishes Westminister to provide funding to Scottish Government to administer in devolved area instead.

In a letter, Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Government ahead of the second meeting of the Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce on Friday.

He has called on Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice to consider withdrawing their scheme in Scotland. This is to provide the funding to the Scottish Government to administer in a devolved area instead. He also requested clarity on the payments and caps to the new UK-wide seafood scheme which was announced at the weekend.

In January, the Government made available GBP 23 million for seafood exporters that suffered a financial loss because of delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January.

Ewing said that eligible aquaculture (and catch) businesses cannot apply to both the UK scheme and Scottish Government’s Seafood Producers Resilience Fund, which is for shellfish producers and catchers and trout farmers. He claimed that the UK Government has yet to publish details on funding or eligibility with businesses currently unable to understand which fund would offer them most grant support.

Alternately, he said that he would like the UK scheme to be withdrawn (from Scotland) and appropriate funding passed to the Scottish Government, with which the Scottish scheme could be expanded/reopened.

Ewing said he has “serious concerns about both the design of the scheme itself, and your approach to announcing it without any consultation or engagement with devolved administrations or industry in advance.”

“Beyond the serious issue of yet again UK Government ignoring the devolution settlement by spending in a devolved area, my key focus, as I’m sure is yours, is on doing what is best for an industry that is fighting for its survival due to the combined impacts of COVID-19 and EU Exit.”

“I am concerned there is a lack of understanding of the handling of the two funding schemes and the real-world implications in failing to discuss and align the both of them,” he concluded.