Brexit is a “golden opportunity” to revitalise the Western Isles economy say island
The advantages for the Western Isles and west coast communities from leaving the
European Union were discussed at a conference in Benbecula.
After the seminar fisherman Finlay Macdonald highlighted island fishermen wanted
the opportunity to catch fish in Hebridean waters.
Mr Macdonald stressed: “I believe Brexit is a golden opportunity for our generation”
It opens up the chance for people “to grab their own future with their own hands.”
He emphasised: “I don’t think we have anything to be afraid of.
“We are masters of our own destiny and there is a world of opportunity locally for
us to grab hold of and do really well.
“I don’t see any negatives coming out of Brexit.
“The spin-offs would encourage more people into the industry, more onshore processing
jobs, more people in the community.”
This would create a “thriving community” in the Western Isles opposed to the present
downward trend, he added.
One of the main seafood factories in the Western Isles also sees great opportunities.
Around 100 jobs in the fragile economy of Uist are supported by Kallin Shellfish
between processing staff at the facility, fishing crews, and the boats they buy from.
This figure could be multiplied throughout the islands if the correct strategy for
the fishing sector is implemented to take full advantage of Brexit believes Hector
Stewart, a director of the company.
Mr Stewart said: “This is definitely an opportunity as we take control of our own
“I hope there will be increased access to species we don’t have access to at present.”
There is also an emerging tuna fishery to the west “which we hope we can take advantage
Mr Stewart pointed out: “If there is anything has the potential to regenerate the
Western Isles then that’s the fishing industry.”
Surrounded by the bountiful ocean on the north east corner of the Atlantic, the Hebridean
archipelago, means that the “sea is our opportunity.”
Mr Stewart urged governments to “invest in the islands to make them viable for young
people to live and have families.”
The EU know only too well how “valuable” Scotland’s fisheries are, as it calls for
European trawlers to continue to fishing around the UK off the west coast at the
same level as before.
The UK should also realise what an important resource the home fishing grounds are
and “not give them away.”
Scotland Office minister Lord Ian Duncan said the UK government hears “loud and clear“
the message from fishing communities.
He added: “We know exactly what is at stake.
“It is our job to deliver against those expectations in what will be tough negotiations.”
Lord Duncan said: “We are in full-on listening mode. We have got to deliver for fishermen
across Scotland and the UK.
“Now we have to build a fishing policy which works for fishermen.
He said fishing is a “valuable industry” which is the “lifeblood” of many remote
“For a very long time it has been low down in the pecking order in the EU.
“The common fisheries “one net fits all” policy has been bad for fishing in places
Negotiations over fishing after Brexit are going to be “tough” but “right now the
fish are in our waters.”
He said: “Seven times as much fish are caught by EU vessels in our waters as we catch
in theirs and that makes the negotiations quite, quite different in this area.
Since joining the EU the Western Isles fleet has declined by 25%.
The industry stresses Brexit will bring significant economic opportunities including
additional jobs to remote areas.
Significant amounts of mackerel and herring are caught on the west coast of Scotland
- yet no boats on the west coast have quota. Millions of pounds worth of fish is
caught by European vessels on the islands’ doorstep.
Capturing a slice of that action plus increasing more of the fish it exports to be
processed at home would mean a jobs boost for remote communities where employment
is hard to find.
It is believed for every job in fishing there are three or four jobs created on land
- jobs in finance; fish and shellfish processing; fisheries management, packaging,
marketing, transport, tourism and catering.
With less EU trawlers in Scottish waters, there is a gap for Scotland’s fishing fleet
to expand, creating more employment at sea to catch the harvest, the conference heard.
In turn, that means the need to recruit more people for the expanded opportunities
ashore - such in processing factories and transport.
Hector Stewart highlights fisheries is a major economic opportunity after Brexit
Scotland Office minister Lord Ian Duncan meets with island fishing representatives
Leaving EU is “golden opportunity” for Western Isles