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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK


UK Politics

MP rocks boat on Scottish waters

MPs are being asked to reconsider jurisdiction

The government has been asked to reconsider the decision to transfer 6,000 square miles of Scottish waters off the Berwickshire coast to English jurisdication.

Ministers have said the move, which came into force at the beginning of the month, is a technical measure which will have little impact.

But Scottish fishermen's leaders argue that the change in jurisdiction could involve work being transferred to England and would make Scottish trawler crews liable to prosecution in English courts.

The matter was raised in the Commons on Tuesday by Roxburgh and Berwickshire MP Archy Kirkwood in a Bill under the 10-minute rule.

He had accused ministers of inadequate consultation over the proposals and wanted the decision to be looked at again.

'Hypocrisy'

Afterwards the SNP's Deputy Leader, John Swinney, described the Bill as "the height of Lib Dem hypocrisy".

He said: "When the SNP proposed the restoration of the proper fishing boundary between Scotland and England in the Scottish Parliament on 3 June - and the return of these 6,000 square miles - the Lib Dems voted against along with Labour.

"At the time, Scottish fishing industry representatives attacked the Lib Dems for their stance, and failure to stand up for Scotland's interests.

"The Lib Dems are raising this issue at Westminster, and trying to bury it in Scotland - facing two different ways at once."

He said that unlike the Lib Dems, the SNP had been consistent supporters of the fishing industry, and had consistently argued that the fisheries boundary should be restored.

"We shall continue to do so and speak with one voice at all levels of representation," Mr Swinney added.

The fishing industry has traditionally regarded Berwick as Scotland's east coast fishing boundary with England.

But in the run-up to devolution the line was formally drawn 60 miles north, leaving 6,000 square miles of water fished mainly by Scottish boats under English jurisdiction.

The government has said the change affects only marine regulation and not fishing rights. Ministers have also pointed out that more than two-thirds of UK water are now under Scottish control.

The decision to alter the boundary was taken at Westminster but the responsibility for fishing has moved to the Scottish Parliament.

Fishermen's leaders have already begun negotiations with MSPs, and hope one of the Scottish Parliament's committees will investigate and seek to have the decision revoked.



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