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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 10:40 GMT
Fish row claims first casualty
Tavish Scott MSP
Tavish Scott arrives back in his Shetland constituency
The escalating row over compensation for Scottish fishermen has claimed its first political casualty.

Tavish Scott, deputy parliament minister and Liberal Democrat MSP, resigned from the Scottish Executive in protest over its decision to push ahead with long-term aid for the industry despite being defeated in the Scottish Parliament.

In a letter to his party leader Jim Wallace, the Shetland MSP said his position as a minister in the Lib Dem/Labour coalition executive had become "untenable".

He said his commitment to his constituents and to one of Shetland's main industries was his first priority.

Henry McLeish and Rhona Brankin
Henry McLeish and Rhona Brankin: Under pressure
He stated: "The decision to resign has not been made lightly but the Scottish Executive fisheries policy has made my position as a minister untenable.

"I have therefore decided that, in order to carry out my duties to my Shetlands constituents, I have no alternative but to resign."

The compensation row overshadowed the visit of Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday to the Scottish Labour Party conference in Inverness.

Mr Blair, who was jeered by fishermen, made only a passing reference to the fishing industry in his speech to the party faithful.



As he left the conference centre a group of around 20 fishermen carrying protest banners booed his departure.

Their banners carried slogans such as "Save our stocks", "Save our fishing industry" and some derogatory remarks about fisheries minister Rhona Brankin.

Fishing leaders and opposition politicians have called on the executive to fund a short-term tie-up of boats by skippers.

Fishermen have tied up their boats voluntarily because they say the EU Cod Recovery Plan, closing large areas of the North Sea, forced them to fish for undersized stock, threatening future catches.

The executive said it was introducing a long-term decommissioning scheme worth 25m, but MSPs rejected the plan.

Total disarray

Despite the vote, the executive said it would push ahead with the scheme.

SNP leader John Swinney said of the deputy minister's departure: "This extraordinary development leaves the Lab Lib government in a state of total disarray.

"Tavish Scott's resignation as Tom McCabe's deputy proves that the government's refusal to abide by the will of Scotland's parliament, and the united voice of the Scottish fishing industry, is utterly untenable.

"The government's position has completely unravelled, which is why they must immediately back down and implement a compensated tie-up scheme for the fishing industry."

Turmoil

Scottish Tory Leader David McLetchie MSP claimed the collapse of the coalition was now inevitable.

He said: "The resignation of Tavish Scott underlines the turmoil and within the Executive coalition. The Lib Dems are a schizophrenic party, who for the best part of two years have tried to be both a party of Government and a party of opposition at one and the same time."

Meanwhile, Mr Wallace expressed his "profound regret" at Mr Scott's decision to resign and expressed gratitude for his personal support.

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fish row strains coalition
07 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fishermen net aid package
06 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fishermen make compensation plea
01 Mar 01 | Scotland
Fishermen in plea to parliament
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