THE SNP rural affairs secretary has warned his UK counterpart against “trading away” access to Scottish fishing grounds as part of negotiations on Brexit.

Fergus Ewing has told Andrea Leadsom the Scottish Government is “very concerned” at the potential loss, saying it would “not be acceptable to Scottish ministers”.

He has asked the UK government to commit to “year to year control” of access to Scottish waters, not give away access to foreign vessels in horse-trading with other EU states.

According to a recent study, around half the fish and shellfish landed from Scottish waters last year is already caught by non-UK boats, some 386,000 tons worth £210 million.

Mr Ewing, Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, met Ms Leadsom, the UK Secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, earlier this month.

In a follow-up letter, Mr Ewing wrote: “One of the Scottish industry’s key concerns, as well as mine, is that the UK may consider trading away access to the Scottish zone on a long-term or permanent basis. This would not be acceptable to Scottish Ministers.

“I am now seeking your assurance… that the UK will not give or negotiate away any permanent or long-term access to foreign vessels to the Scottish zone.

“Further, that the Scottish Government will be decision-makers in the process relating to the UK approach on fishing and not simply co-consulted.”

Mr Ewing added last night: “If the powers that currently sit with the EU are not fully devolved to Scotland, we will be left relying on the UK Government to manage our fisheries in a way that best meets Scotland’s needs and interests. On numerous occasions they have demonstrated they are unable or unwilling to do this.”

The UK Government said: “Our fishing industry is immensely valuable. Supporting our fishermen across the UK will form an important part of our exit from the EU. This means ensuring a profitable fishing industry, sustainable stocks and a healthy marine environment.”