Scottish seafood chief Jimmy Buchan urges new minister to consider the whole fishing industry after Brexit
One of Scotland’s main seafood champions wants the new Fisheries Minister to travel to the North East as soon as possible to help the sector thrive after Brexit rather than just survive.
Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) Managing Director Jimmy Buchan said it was essential that Mairi Gougeon MSP, now Cabinet Secretary for Rural and Islands Affairs following the recent cabinet reshuffle at Holyrood, made a quick visit to the heart of the country’s seafood industry in its new role.
Mr Buchan said many issues required Ms Gougeon’s attention as the processing sector continued to grapple with the double impact of Covid-19 and the Brexit ‘debacle’, which saw significant delays in Scottish seafood exports earlier this year.
“We must restore hope and viability to our seafood industry.”
Jimmy Buchan, Managing Director of the Scottish Seafood Association
The ongoing challenges of the coronavirus and post-Brexit paperwork, as well as sky-high trade rates are a huge burden for many Scottish seafood processors, he said.
“We often seem forgotten”
He added, “Any new minister entering the brief must engage with various parts of the seafood industry.
“What always worries me is that we (the processors) often seem to be the forgotten industry, even though we are the biggest employer and a vital part of the seafood supply chain.”
It is vital for Ms. Gougeon to understand the important role of the supply chain as an integral part of the industry at large, with the capture and processing sectors working together as a ‘hand and glove’ to deliver goods. Scottish seafood from sea to plate, Mr Buchan said. .
He added: “In the past, it was the fishermen who were always first and foremost in (government) briefings – but we have to make sure that one sector does not dominate the discourse. Fergus (former Minister of Fisheries, Fergus Ewing) understood this perfectly.
Mr Ewing – who resigned from his front bench – left an important ‘legacy’ in that he and his team of officials, as well as UK government counterparts were able to ‘wipe out all politics’ and team up in one intervention force which was set up earlier this year to help tackle Scottish seafood export issues, Buchan said.
The CEO of SSA said it was important for Ms Gougeon to maintain this constructive dialogue, adding that she could also bring “new energy” and “fresh” ideas to the post. “I can’t wait for her to share some of her thoughts on how we can move forward,” he said.
The processors in the North East are also keen to hear more – from the UK and Scottish governments – about the availability of funds to replace the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, ”Buchan said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s £ 100million pledge earlier this year to help the fishing industry recover from the effects of Covid-19 and Brexit is another point of interest, as everyone awaits an update on how the money will be distributed and accessed, he added.
“We need to help our businesses move from survival to prosperity,” Buchan said, adding, “We are still in survival mode at the moment, we cannot continue to sink into a black hole.”
“We need to restore hope and viability to our seafood industry, we are on the run and ready to go.”
Congratulation to @MairiGougeon upon appointment to the rural affairs portfolio in @scotgov. We look forward to engaging as early as possible on the many challenges facing our industry. Thank you and best to @FergusEwingSNP for the support / willingness to listen to the industry.
– SFF (@sff_uk) May 19, 2021
More Scottish seafood is exported this year, compared to 2020, but by a smaller number of companies, Buchan said.
Sending products overseas remains “difficult and very risky” for many small businesses, he said, adding that it was his own business, Peterhead-based Amity Fish Company.
Congratulating Ms. Gougeon on her appointment, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Managing Director Elspeth Macdonald said, “We look forward to engaging as early as possible on the many challenges facing the sector.
“Thanks also to Fergus Ewing, who resigned from government, for his support, commitment and willingness to listen to the industry.