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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 July 2007, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Scotland 'should lead fish talks'
Alex Salmond
The first minister called for better representation
Scotland needs a "new relationship" with Europe to lead the way in fishery negotiations, according to First Minister Alex Salmond.

Mr Salmond was taking part in talks on trade and fishery policy in Brussels on his first official trip abroad.

Labour said any attempt by Scotland to lead UK fishery talks in Europe would be "nonsense".

The first minister will also attend a ceremony to mark the biggest loss of life in World War I at Passchendaele.

Mr Salmond was setting out the Scottish Executive's priorities with European Union commissioners.

It is time for Scotland to take more responsibility for the world we share
Alex Salmond
First Minister

These have included talks with Peter Mandelson on trade and Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.

The first minister said: "I believe it is time to transform the nature of Scotland's representation and impact in Europe.

"It is time for Scotland to take more responsibility for the world we share and to offer the insight and leadership of a nation keen to embrace the immense possibility that working within an expanded European Union offers."

In a briefing following what he called a highly productive series of meetings, Mr Salmond said he had made clear to Mr Borg his conviction that Scotland should have a greater say in the management of Scottish waters.

He said he had reminded the commissioner that fishing was 30-times more important to Scotland than to the UK economy.

The UK coastline is shared between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland - all with major fishing industries
Rhona Brankin
Labour

The first minister said it was not right that Westminster leads fishing talks, while Scotland has 70% of the UK catch.

But Labour's Rhona Brankin said any move by Scotland to try to take the lead in fishery negotiations would fail.

She said: "The UK coastline is shared between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland - all with major fishing industries.

"So the notion that Scotland should have the sole right to speak for the UK on fisheries matters is fanciful nonsense."

Mr Salmond has also spoken about his desire for an independent Scotland to play a part in European politics, saying: "We recognise the success of so many small countries in Europe, and we aspire to the independent membership of the EU that they enjoy."

And he stressed his visit to Passchendaele, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the battle, highlighted the importance of the EU in maintaining peace and stability across Europe.

Scottish regiments played a major part in the battle at Passchendaele.

More than half a million British, Commonwealth and German troops died at Passchendaele in three months of bloody fighting in the deep Flanders mud in 1917.

A Celtic Cross is to be erected later in the year as part of 90th anniversary ceremonies, in honour of the fallen from the 10 Scottish regiments involved.


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The first minister arrives in Brussels for the talks



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