Last July, Boris Johnson paid a flying visit to Orkney – his first to Scotland since the General Election. He stood on a trawler in Stromness harbour, spoke to local fishermen and waved around some fine Orkney crab for the cameras.

The pictures were a spin doctor’s dream – a graphic illustration of the Prime Minister harvesting the “sea of opportunity” that he had promised during the referendum of 2016.

By December, the dashboard was full of warning lights that Johnson’s commitment to the industry would only last until the cameras were packed away.

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Having nodded sympathetically to the Orkney fishermen who had hosted his photoshoot in the hope of finally seeing some Government concessions on visas for crew to work on their boats, the Prime Minister’s Christmas gift to the fleet was to tell them instead that nothing was going to change.

Then came the infamous deal on Christmas Eve. Having made a great pantomime of holding out to get the best deal for fishermen, Johnson folded. Instead we found a deal that the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation described this week as “desperately poor” and “the worst of both worlds”.

On close scrutiny the deal leaves our fishermen able to catch fewer fish in most key species, “wins” us shoals of “paper fish” (which we have no economic interest in catching) and leaves us locked into a deal that we barely control and will only be able to leave in 2026 if we are prepared to pay a heavy political and economic price.

With the New Year, however, the full extent of Johnson’s ineptitude and indifference has become apparent. Traditionally, the first week of the new year is a bumper one for exports before trade quietens down for a couple of months.

This year, red-faced Scottish traders were unable to meet their orders as the lorries carrying their slowly deteriorating stock sat idling in Larkhall – unable to penetrate the new fog of bureaucracy in Johnson’s deal.

Eventually things got so bad that desperate executives from logistics companies were forced to ask traders to stop sending fish. The traders, in turn, had to tell fishing boats to stay in harbour.

In the House of Lords, the Fishing Minister provoked incredulity by describing the promises made by her Brexiter bosses as “big dreams”.

Next day in the Commons, George Eustice fanned the flames of anger by insisting that these were just “teething problems”. Jacob Rees-Mogg brought it nicely to the boil by mockingly declaring that the fish were “happier” to be British.

Presumably, their happiness was brought about by the knowledge that fishing boats tied up in harbour would not be out catching them. If gaffes and platitudes had fins and gills we would be well over quota by now.

How has it come to this?

The Herald:

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I can see only one answer. Our fishermen have been used by opportunists like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage, who saw them as a great lever to get Britain out of the European Union.

Now that we are out they have no further use for those left behind. They will be left to sink or swim while wrapped up in red tape. As sell-outs go this outstrips even that of the 1970s when the government of Edward Heath deemed fishing “dispensable”.

The promises – not “dreams” – of Brexiters to our fishing communities were always going to take massive political capital to deliver. That was why I always feared this day would come and I am angry that it has.

Not every Brexiter is culpable here. Some, like John Ashworth – the founder of Fishing For Leave – were sincere in their commitment to the industry. Like many, they believed the likes of Farage when he sailed up the Thames on trawlers – another great photo opportunity.

John Ashworth’s verdict on the deal was damning. He wrote: “One could even say we would be better off staying in [The EU].”

Johnson, Farage et al have got what they wanted. Our fishing communities are left counting the cost.

Alistair Carmichael is the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland