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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Lochhead attends 'valuable' talks
Fishermen
The talks will centre around proposed fish quota cuts
Scotland's new fisheries minister has described his first talks on fishing quotas with European ministers as "instructive" and "valuable".

Richard Lochhead was speaking after attending the European Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg.

Representatvies from the Scottish Fisheries Federation (SFF) also attended in support of the minister.

The SNP has previously criticised Europe's control of the Scottish fleet.

Mr Lochhead described his attendance as the first cabinet minister of the new Scottish government to attend the talks as a "privilege".

Watching 27 countries, some landlocked, debating fishing policy underlined the importance of giving the historic fishing nation of Scotland a much greater say
Richard Lochhead

He said he had also attended a constructive meeting with DEFRA secretary of state David Miliband and UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw.

He said: "It was very instructive to observe the way the UK Government handles the current arrangements.

"We agreed to begin discussions on how we can work more effectively together."

Mr Lochhead has said he intends to fight for "radical changes" in Scotland's favour to the current fishing quotas.

He added: "Watching 27 countries, some landlocked, debating fishing policy underlined the importance of giving the historic fishing nation of Scotland a much greater say on the future of our fishing communities."

Background issue

SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong, who travelled with the minister, said his presence in Luxembourg represented closer co-operation between the industry and its management.

He said: "The agenda of this June Council is, vital as it is, in many ways less important than these first moves that have been made in creating the future framework of a closer working relationship between fishermen and the Scottish government."

Scientists have recommended a total ban on catching North Sea cod, and huge cuts in quotas for plaice and haddock.

But Mr Armstrong said the cod proposals were not one of the specific parts of the discussions in Luxembourg.

However, he said it was an important background issue.

"It is not necessarily the content of these talks that is the most important part - it is the fact that we are here, closer to it, and therefore able to exercise a little bit of extra influence," he said

"We have been asking for that for a while."

Mr Lochhead said the SNP's policy was to eventually have Scotland leading for the whole of the UK in fisheries talks.


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