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31 January 2017

Fishing Sell-out Looming

Here we are again. A hair’s breadth from a Tory sell-out.

Time and again the Tories speak only for political gain – whether those words are true or utterly false. This trend goes from the top to bottom. Theresa May and all of her backbenchers will exploit whatever means necessary.

Even locally the Tories do this. Just this month they’ve misrepresented information on the Scottish Ambulance Service targets which had to be corrected.

One would hope these are just mistakes but that appears unlikely. The misinformation appears calculated. And if this kind of calculation is standard behaviour, it does not bode well for our fishing industry.

Why? Because they will sell-out fishing as soon as it is no longer politically expedient. The fact that the Tories took us into the Common Fisheries Policy tell us that. Will they protect fishing? The answer is an emphatic NO.

That was a long time ago, I know. So perhaps we should look at something more recent. We need only look back to mid-January to the Prime Minister’s speech on Brexit. On that day we began to see the Tory mask slip.

Among her chief objectives were financial services and the freedom of car exports. Fishing did manage to get a mention but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for.

What the Prime Minister did say was an insult to our fishing industry and hints at an impending sell-out. The only concern she highlighted for fishing was for Spanish fishermen. She said that she didn’t think EU leaders would want to make Spanish fishermen poorer – just to punish Britain.

Bingo – bargaining chip. After all this rhetoric about helping fishing; she decides to completely ignore the concerns of Scotland’s fishing communities. The UK Government is warming up to the idea of selling-out our fishing.

The Tories will say whatever it takes to get their way and if it is a choice between financial services and fishing they will choose financial services. They will do whatever it takes to protect the interests of London. They haven’t any regard for Scotland’s coastal communities least of all the North-east.

But the Scottish Government won’t let that happen and I will do all I can to ensure that doesn't happen.

The Cabinet Secretary for Fisheries, Fergus Ewing, has repeatedly pressed the UK Government give a clear commitment that they will not trade away the right to fish in Scottish waters. Mr Ewing has asked for it face to face from both George Eustice MP and Andrea Leadsom MP. He has yet to receive the commitment.

The Scottish Government has attempted to work with the UK Government and continues to press for the best deal for Scotland post-Brexit. Part of that deal is ensuring that while Scotland continues operate within the European Single Market – we do not remain in the CFP.

This model does have challenges but it ensures that fish catching has the chance to free itself from the constraints of a failed CFP and would allow us to negotiate for tariff-free access for our fish processors.

The mask has begun to slip and only the Scottish Government can ensure that our coastal communities aren't sold out once again.

17 January 2017

Affirming Internationalism

Last week the Scottish Parliament debated two issues that shed light on Scotland’s character.

They allowed us to reflect on important aspects of who we are.

The first debate was on the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). It raised important questions about the origins of the Convention and its purpose. When you boiled it down – it really became a question about what we have learned. Lessons from war and violence, and lessons about ourselves.

Some might think it a distant topic – but I find it much closer. It asks us to decide whether all human beings have an equal right to live. To live as they wish, free from fear and violence. How we answer that question is central to who we are. And the answer always remains with us.

The ECHR does that – it protects everyone, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle from oppression. It states as it first and most important principle, that everyone has “The Right to Life.” Its strength is in that it is a shared commitment. It is a necessity because, as history shows, sovereign laws can sometimes fail to protect. The Second World War is a prime example of why we should remember that.

The theme for last week was to reaffirm our internationalist identity. Internationalism is a proudly Scottish tradition. A tradition further encouraged by another debate last week. Namely, the debate on Global Goals and international development.

The Scottish Government set before us the plan whereby we might assist the world in achieving Global Goals for Sustainable Development. There is a long list of these goals, but they include, eradicating poverty, hunger, promoting good health and wellbeing, among others. These are goals that the Scottish Government is committed to both in Scotland and in developing countries. In taking this position, these become universal goals; committing Scotland to eradicating poverty on our own doorstep and to the most distant reaches of humanity.

Which raises an interesting point, eloquently made by Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, he said,

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

The Scottish Government's actions aim to reflect Mandela’s sentiment. In committing to end poverty domestically and internationally, we establish coherence. This coherence, in turn, strengthens our argument to eradicate global poverty and may one day be the reason we overcome it.

The world has taken a strange turn in the last year. Despite that strange turn and the incendiary rhetoric from the hard right, I still have hope. These debates and the place from which they emerge – the people of Scotland, give me hope. I have that hope because Scotland has always been a leader in the world. During the Scottish Enlightenment the world sought out our philosophy and poetry. In the 20th Century the world was awed by our innovation and invention. In this century, I have a great hope that our vision, bound by the deep roots of our traditions, will be sought out by those around the world.

3 January 2017

Vision for a Scots New Year

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone enjoyed the celebrations and I look forward to another year working hard for Banffshire & Buchan Coast.

One of the things I most like about New Year is sentiment of fellowship it creates. During Hogmanay, complete strangers greet one another with hope for the coming year. It is a sign of goodwill and the deep social connections we share.

It shouldn't suprise us. Scotland is partially responsible for imparting that to the world. One of our great traditions on Hogmanay is to sing Rabbie Burns' poem, 'Auld Lang Syne.' The poem calls on us to recall our common humanity and is now a tradition around the world.

In 2017, let us use this to kindle hope. Let us carry those values we sing of on Hogmanay, in 2017 - from start to finish. The world has been riven by the events of 2016. In Scotland, we have a chance to heal these wounds but only if we carry hope.

Over the past year leaders have appealed to fear and anger. Those appeals were powerful and they were dangerous. But New Year is about renewal. It is a chance to begin again. It is a symbol of hope. It tells us to look forward, to remind ourselves of the good in one another.

This year will be better. Our future should be a beacon of light on the horizon. This year we should aim to reach that place together. This year, let us try and carry the sentiment of 'Auld Lang Syne' with us. Let us carry that self reflection and impart the hope it carries to all of our fellows.

That is a vision that is a part of who we are and predates our own generation by several centuries. It is a Scots vision and a vision we can all believe in. It represents a brighter future and our success will be defined by our ability to see that future.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has set out such a vision. A vision of hope for Scotland and potentially the UK in an uncertain post-Brexit world. It is a vision that keeps Scotland out of the Common Fisheries Policy but still in the single market. The best of both worlds for our fish catching and fish processing industries. A vision that will renew our fishing communities in the North-east and across Scotland.

At the moment, we have no vision from the Prime Minister, Theresa May - only uncertainty and fear. But that is not the case in Scotland - we have a vision.

I wish you all the best for 2017. Let's make it a year of hope, a year of vision and a year of belief. We can always make the world a better place - if we dare to hope, if we dare to believe. Carry the words of Rabbie Burns, "And there's a hand my trusty fiere! and gie's a hand o'thine!" and let's build on that. Happy New Year!

Stewart Stevenson
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