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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK

UK Politics

MSPs debate fishing dispute

Scots fishermen have expressed anger at a boundary change

The Scottish Parliament is to debate a controversial decision to extend England's fisheries limit into traditionally Scottish waters.

The east coast boundary change was decided by international convention and was agreed at Westminster.

But from 1 July, fishing will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament and MSPs decided to debate the decision after it caused uproar among Scotland's fishing leaders, who said they were not consulted.

[ image: The change does not affect where boats can fish]
The change does not affect where boats can fish
Scotland's North Sea fishermen have worked for years on the understanding that the line dividing their interests from their counterparts in England extends east from Berwick.

But with the advent of devolution, the Scottish Office had to make clear the limits of Scotland's jurisdiction for fisheries matters and the agreed border has now been moved 60 miles north in line with Carnoustie.

The Scottish Office insists normal parliamentary procedures were followed and the line deals only with the regulation of fisheries not where boats can fish.

But the Scottish National Party says the decision makes a nonsense of devolution and has demanded an inquiry.

The issue is to be raised in the Scottish Parliament and Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie will ask MSPs to note that the new official boundary does not restrict the Scottish fleet's freedom.

Legal confusion

The chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said the decision could lead to legal confusion.

Hamish Morrison said: "If you have a collision between a Scottish fishing vessel and an oil support vessel in this area then it is not clear where the jurisdiction will lie.

"The reason there has been a boundary is because of the English and Scottish legal systems which are quite different in many respects.

"Now the question is, how is such a situation resolved."

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