Richard Lochhead, the SNP fisheries spokesman (Letters, 18 June),
refers to the founding Common Fishing Policy's principle of relative
stability. He says it will ensure that Scottish fishermen will
always receive their share of fishing entitlements in our seas.
Regrettably, the seas around the United Kingdom are not "our seas"
but part of the EU fisheries common pond.
His contribution to the debate on the Scottish fishing industry's
future after the European Union Commission's CFP reform proposals is
welcome. But despite the many occasions on which we have tried to ensure
that MSPs understand the difference between the real CFP and relative
stability, none of them seem yet to have grasped the position.
The European Court of Justice has made it clear that the community
system of national quotas initially contained in Council Regulation EEC
170/83, and the annual TAC [Total Allocated Catch] and Quota
Regulation is a derogation from the general rule of equal conditions of
access to fishery resources and the principle of non-discrimination laid
down in Article 40(3) of the Treaty of Rome.
In community law, every derogation, whether of the CFP, the CAP, or
anything else, terminates at the end of its transitional period, when,
if a new derogation is not established we immediately move into the full
acceptance of the terms of the treaty, which in this case is "equal
access" to a "common resource".
This is the real CFP, which was first introduced in Council
Regulation 2141/70, and was signed up to in Britain's Treaty of
Accession in 1972, just prior to our joining the Common Market in
January 1973. Ten years later, the principle of relative stability was
introduced to divide up the European TAC between the relevant member
It is clear that relative stability is a fundamental principle of the
derogation, not of the CFP, otherwise it would be written into the
Being part of the derogation, it is an exception to, and therefore
incompatible with, the non-discrimination principle of the Treaty of
Rome, and since European law stipulates no exceptions can be allowed,
other than those agreed on for a transitional period, it will terminate
on or before the expiry date of the derogation, which is 31 December,
Mr Lochhead is correct to sound a warning that vigilance is necessary
to protect Scottish fishing interests in the tough negotiations ahead,
but 20 years of relative stability, a temporary derogation to the
real CFP of equal access to the common resource, does not mean that
Scottish fishermen have historic rights.
Commissioner Franz Fischler, in a speech to the Spanish parliament on
7 June said, with regard to access: "Because of the expiry of the Act of
Accession, from 1 January, 2003, onwards Spain will have access to the
"We will re-examine the quota allocations made during the period when
Spain was excluded from these waters. Based on the council's allocation
criteria, and in particular on historical catches, we will then examine
whether Spain would have been entitled to a quota ... As regards access
to resources, I can in any case assure you that the Commission will
apply community law to Spain in just the same way as to the other member
So, Mr Lochhead's proposal that the fishing minister, Ross Finnie,
take the lead in EU fisheries negotiations may some resonance in certain
quarters but when faced with community law he will be on a hiding to
British fishing policy is determined by the political imperative
of EU integration. The objective is to create an EU fishing fleet
catching EU fish in EU and third country waters under an EU permit
system controlled from Brussels.
The only answer is to regain national control; 30 years of
senseless destruction is enough. Britain's fish stocks are our
responsibility. It is our duty to protect them and the communities
dependent on them.
The Fishermen's Association Ltd, c/o McColl & Associates Ltd, 11 Burns Road, Aberdeen