A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Posts tagged ‘Scottish parliament’

Gone Fishing with Fergus

So the morning half three start under the belt and through in Inverness still in the dark, only able to imagine the colours rather than see them. The train journey did not feel long as I slept most of the way. As we got into Edinburgh at ten I had a bit of time before the meeting. It was put back a couple of hours but after I had booked the train tickets. The wander down The Royal Mile was very pleasant in the autumn sun. Checked out the Parliament, wandered past the Indy Camp and over to Salisbury Crags. Heard in the passing that the response from the Camp after losing their court case was to park another car by the caravans. The climb up the hill was stunning and Edinburgh was resplendent in the autumn sun. Looking across to the castle,


seeing the old alongside the new, so different from back home.


The old and new side by side, in fact more them and us. Holyrood Palace just across from Holyrood Parliament. One lodged in the past and the other looking to the future.


The Crags were lit up looking through the courtyard of Murray House.


Time flew by and made for the cafe where over time the others came in. Just thinking that we had a good spread of knowledge from the east coast, west coast, diving and creeling, buying and legal were all round the table. Civil service joined us and off we went up a maze of stairs to a meeting room where we met with Fergus Ewing. This was our first meeting since he had taken over the brief from Richard Lochhead. The brief has been split and Fergus has rural affairs and connectivity. I had a good feeling about his reaction to what we had to say. He appeared to take on board our common sense views. Bob Younger gave a background summing up of how we have arrived at today’s position, citing the Cameron commission through to the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1984 and its detrimental effect of  today’s harvest. Some interesting facts emerged that show how skewed the position is when it was pointed out that ground available to trawling constituted 96.3% of the total worked, this was an east coast statistic. Basically shows that the static gear industry is doing a pretty amazing job with such a little share of the resource, not only to survive but in many cases are thriving. And still the crab gear was being towed away to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. How much ground does the mobile sector need to operate at profit? We also pointed out that the static gear sector needs so little of the resource compared to the mobile sector as we receive so much more for our catch, landed in better condition all live with little or no discards. On the west it has been a relatively profitable summer in both sectors. Although unscientific, I would suggest that this is connected to less effort, certainly in our area. The drastic diminishing of the inshore trawl fleets from Mallaig to Ullapool must be having an effect. Also having 3/4,000 creels less north of the Crowlins.

We all managed to say our piece and it did seem well received and two suggestions were taken on board. The first was that towing away static gear was to become a criminal offence and a pilot scheme for spatial separation was back on the table. One could see the civil servant beside Fergus was becoming quite agitated recognising how the mobile sector is going to react to these proposals. I could see Fergus was reacting in such a way that customers do when they are told a few observations on the fishery and why they have so enjoyed such a good meal of creel caught langoustine. He was told about the filmed recovery in the Wester Ross MPA after only a year. Valuable breeding grounds being left alone to allow regeneration to continue both in and outside the area. But realistically politics enter a common sense argument and his next fishing event will be the SFF Annual dinner where the picture painted will be with many different colours. I managed to get my Norwegian anecdote at the end. To relate it again, kayaking in the Lofotens, I was speaking to a fisherman helping his partner run their campsite during the tourist season. We talked fishing, prospects, conservation and the likes. I mentioned that you can trawl up to the Scottish shore and I will never forget the look he gave me. He just lost interest in the conversation and you could tell he thought what an idiotic way to manage such a valuable resource. So the meeting ended on a positive note and renewed hope mixed with the usual realism.

Back up the road/rail and home by ten. Time enough for a mug of tea at the Inn and believe it or not a game of poker with a couple of ciders at 6/7 and yet another goodbye. No intention of fishing on Wednesday so no pressure going to my kip at 1.30am very, very tired.

Social Enterprising and The Scottish Parliament.

The last three days have been a bit of a blur. On Friday I got an email asking me to go down to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence on a petition put forward by the Torridon Nephrops Group. They are the fishermen to the north who mainly fish out of Shieldaig. Not entirely sure why I was invited although I do have a lot to say. I never thought that politicians thought it was worth listening to. As I saw that Kenny and Richard were going down I decided there would be safety in numbers. But before that it was off to Sal Mor again to meet up with the gang again to learn more about Social Enterprise. I am not a professional course attendee but this one has been nothing short of brilliant although the assessments we are supposed to do so far are not being done. As usual the banter and interaction was as good as ever. Throughout the course we do something which is called an action learning set and these are problems introduced by people who are then questioned by the group to try to look at different ways of solving what seems an insurmountable problem. Almost everyone on the course has said that their view on how they look at and interact within their own organisations has changed. I set my one up by explaining the poor state of the fishery and how was I to put my view across in what I thought was going to be an intimidating situation in a short time. The response and questions and assumptions that were challenged I think were invaluable today in Edinburgh. I am designated driver as usual and it was off to the pub for the evening. The evening and the next day flew by and I was home by five o’clock. Quick meal, couple of photos printed off and it was off to Shieldaig to meet up with Kenny and away down the road. Kenny could not go earlier as he had a trip booked till 8 pm. Boat looked good back on the mooring with Kinloch on the shore behind her.

It turned out to be an easy drive down with little traffic on the road and going through Edinburgh was an easy task for me, finding the hotel not quite so but modern technology kicked and saved the Highlanders yet again. Kenny luckily had his phone which has a GPS, maybe they all have, and from then on it was easy to complete the last stage. Weird hotel though, three floors up in the lift and then down seven flights of stairs. Not owning a watch or alarm meant I had to leave the tele on for a morning time check. We had to be at the Parliament building by 9.45 so that was easily done with breakfast on the way. Met up with everyone and knew that the SFF were not there so things were going to be a lot more peaceful than anticipated a few days ago. It turned out to be a really interesting experience and seemed to go well with the MSPs showing a fair degree of knowledge about our situation and they also seemed to take on board all our points. Marine Scotland ‘s Mike Palmer was there as well as our IFG chair and there was a lot of chat about the structures in place and how they could be improved. It really can be quite stressful as you want to make an impression because you are on a 600 mile round trip about something you are passionate about. I did manage to make a couple of points and that settled me down a bit and was really impressed by Richard’s and Kenny’s contributions. I think they are far more polished than me at putting points across. The meeting over ran by about an hour and towards the end I decided to go for it and told the room that we have to do more than talk about the issues. The way I see the problem is the fishery is in decline and will not survive unless something is done. In this case extend the no trawl zone south and north of Torridon. The creel men are willing to then cut back on creel numbers but only if the trawler is taken out of the equation. I did my usual in saying everything my Dad fished for is gone and we are now fishing for bottom feeders and are endangering them as well. I think it was slightly different to what they were used to and possibly registered and was different from all the structure discussions. I know there was and probably still is huge controversy over the Parliament building and how much it cost but it is pretty impressive. Beautiful inside and out.

So after the hour over run which we all took to be a good sign, it was a quick-lunch and away up the road this time with Richard as well. Good chats about everything and a positive feel about the meeting meant we were in Inverness in no time. Quick visit to Tesco, not by me, and back to Shieldaig to pick up the van and was back at the Inn for a shift that started an hour late. After half an hour managed to make contact with the real world again and got chatting to visitors about politics, fishing, parliaments etc, just every day life for a wee Highland lad . Maybe I will have a quiet day out on the water tomorrow.

Ps Finland arrived when I was away so that makes it 51 countries that have visited the Inn this year.

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