A NEW political party was launched yesterday with the aim of securing the election of two MSPs to represent the beleaguered fishing industry and its communities.

However, even before the first candidates were named, it was condemned for promoting ''separation, not consolidation''.

The single issue party was launched by George Geddes, a Peterhead skipper for more than a quarter of a century and convener of the Fishing party.

He said its formation was a logical step for an industry ''at the cliff edge'' following recent disasters and the failure of the existing political parties to put the fishermen's case properly.

The party will not contest constituency seats and will encourage members of the public to vote for the local candidate from the party of their choice, but to use their second ''list'' vote to elect its representatives.

''The region in which the party will contest these elections - the north-east - is a huge area stretching from Banff in the north to Dundee in the south,'' said Mr Geddes. ''This will not be an easy task for our modest resources, but we are committed to achieving our goal for the sake of the industry and our communities.''

He said the party would publish a list of potential candidates selected by the party's executive committee later this month.

''These candidates will be from a cross-section of the industry, not just the catching sector but the processing sector and associated industries as well,'' he said.

''We hope to field between four and six list MSPs.''

However, the party does not have the industry's wholehearted support. John Hermse of the Scottish Fishing Services Association, formed last month to represent more than 50 on-shore businesses dependent on the fishing industry, said: ''It is our view that such a party, pursuing a single agenda, is in grave danger of being marginalised. Now is the time for consolidation, not separation.''

Alex Salmond, SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, who has championed the fishermen's cause, said: ''At best it is an irrelevance, and at worst a distraction.''