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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 5, 2024


Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is consideration of Parliamentary Bureau motion S6M-13495, on approval of a Scottish statutory instrument.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Sea Fisheries (Remote Electronic Monitoring and Regulation of Scallop Fishing) (Scotland) Regulations 2024 [draft] be approved.—[Jamie Hepburn]


Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

The motion relates to the draft Sea Fisheries (Remote Electronic Monitoring and Regulation of Scallop Fishing) (Scotland) Regulations 2024. My colleagues on the Conservative benches agree in principle to the introduction of REM and the general policy objectives, but although the majority of the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee agreed to recommend to the Parliament that the SSI be approved, my colleagues and I are concerned about the detail—or, indeed, the lack of detail—in the instrument.

The fishing industry stakeholders who responded to the committee’s call for views expressed concerns that REM would be used predominantly as a tool for compliance and enforcement. The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association questioned why

“another layer of complex and expensive control and enforcement is required for this sector”

and stated:

“this is not an industry with a short-term perspective, the long-term objective is to maintain a prosperous and sustainable industry well into the future. In order to achieve that, we need healthy fish stocks and a robust control and enforcement regime, which is already in place.”

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation argued that the Scottish Government has not set out clearly or identified the exact problem that REM is being introduced to solve. It said:

“REM is not a silver bullet solution to anything. If the fisheries management policies that are in place are not practical and are difficult or impossible to comply with, then REM is simply setting up fishermen to fail.”

Fear remains about there being a level playing field when Scottish vessels fish outwith Scottish waters, which would still require them to use REM, whereas other vessels currently do not.

Professor James Harrison, the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust, Open Seas and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation questioned why the technical specifications would be provided in separate documents rather than being included in the SSI, highlighting concerns about the lack of scope for parliamentary scrutiny. In its written evidence, the SFF stated:

“Government is giving itself the powers to introduce the technical specifications with no scrutiny, and also the powers to change the technical requirements ‘from time to time’ with no evident legal obligation to consult those who will be impacted, and who will be required to spend more money—another blank cheque—to meet any amended or new requirements.”

In committee, Rachael Hamilton stated:

“I am very concerned about the SSI, the clarity of the technical specifications and the BRIA. The financial considerations that have been presented in the BRIA do not give fishermen confidence. The requirements will cost the sector a lot more than is anticipated and the resource for Marine Scotland and the compliance officers will be significant. I am also not sure about the policy direction with regard to the science and data collection. It seems to me that the process is purely about compliance with a smokescreen around science and data collection to support fishing and the marine area.”—[Official Report, Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, 1 May 2024; c 27.]

We believe that the marine directorate’s current resources are insufficient to achieve the objectives of REM, other than to be a blunt enforcement tool.

Given those concerns, along with others relating to REM malfunction and potential fines related to data processing, we will not support the instrument, which, sadly, is yet another example of the Scottish National Party Government’s failure to understand Scotland’s fishing industry, as clearly shown by the continual stream of flawed legislation.

You must conclude, Mr Carson.

I urge MSPs not to support the motion.


The Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity (Jim Fairlie)

I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Parliament regarding the introduction of this SSI, which will mandate the use of remote electronic monitoring on board scallop, dredge and pelagic vessels.

Scotland is leading the way, and we already know that others are following, with roll-out of REM planned in other parts of the United Kingdom and the European Union. Only recently, the UK Government confirmed its plans to deploy REM on board key parts of the English fishing fleet, starting with pelagic boats. We are working in partnership with others to share our learning and to ensure that REM roll-out goes smoothly. It is an exciting new technology, representing a step change in how we deliver sustainable fisheries management in Scotland. Scotland’s fishing industry has always been at the forefront of innovation and technology.

Our fishing industry must be celebrated and supported, but it should also be appropriately regulated. A well-regulated fishing industry benefits us all and ensures that fishing takes place in a sustainable way. On 1 May, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands gave detailed evidence to the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee regarding the introduction of REM. The robust line of questioning from the committee was representative of the diverse range of views held by stakeholders, and it reflected the consultation feedback that we received.

The supporting documentation that accompanies the SSI sets out the benefits that are to be gleaned from REM, which include the ability to deter non-compliance with fisheries regulations. REM will also enhance our understanding of fisheries, support a robust scientific evidence base and deliver confidence and accountability in the activities of fishing vessels at sea. We have heard directly from retailers in response to multiple fisheries consultations that they support REM and want greater trust in fishing activities. REM will help to deliver increased confidence for those retailers and consumers.

Based on calls from the fishing industry, we have already deployed REM to the Scottish scallop dredge fleet on a voluntary basis. The scallop industry has recognised the reputational benefits that can flow from REM. The regulations have been developed in a proportionate way, following a full public consultation. For example, we have ensured a level playing field and taken a pragmatic approach to dealing with technical faults, providing flexibility to fishers where possible and avoiding undermining the policy intent.

We want REM to succeed and the fishing industry to succeed, and this legislation will help to ensure that that happens by improving standards across the board. I urge members to approve the regulations into law.

The Presiding Officer

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.

The next item of business is consideration of Parliamentary Bureau motion S6M-13496, on approval of a statement of principles. I ask Jamie Hepburn, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman: Child-friendly Complaint Handling Statement of Principles (SPSO/2024/01) be approved.—[Jamie Hepburn]

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.