An independent Scotland would be a “key influencer” in Common Fisheries Policy quota negotiations, the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Secretary has insisted. 

Launching the eighth paper in the SNP administration’s prospectus for independence, Mairi Gougeon said she understood why there might be some apprehension from the country’s fishing sector at the prospect of rejoining the EU. 

But, the minister added, “It can't be worse than what we've been through, what we've been promised and ultimately what hasn't been delivered.”

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Speaking to journalists in Dunbar, Ms Gougeon said Brexit had not delivered the “sea of opportunity” for quotas promised by the Leave campaign and the UK Government. 

She added:  “There's been a paper quota that's been allocated, a quota that wasn't being fulfilled in the first place and therefore wasn't needed. 

“We've seen quota for some of our key stocks, so cod, haddock, whiting, saithe actually go down, and we have less availability for that now than we had previously as members of the EU. 

“So I think that it's important to highlight that, and I think if we were to rejoin the CFP, what that would ultimately mean for us as well, that if Scotland rejoins as an independent country, we have a role in the decision-making there, and we can help influence and modernise those policies too. "

Ms Gougeon said that if Scotland was to rejoin the EU as an independent country, then it would have the “fourth largest exclusive economic zone” in the bloc, “which gives us some influence there where we would be able to influence the CFP and how that develops.” 

“I think it's important not to forget it's not a static thing either, and the full policy around that has been modernising, moving towards maximum sustainable yield. 

“And that's where I think that we could have a key influence there and we could have a positive impact. 

“So I understand that there would be apprehension about that. But I do think that it can't be worse than what we've been through, what we've been promised and ultimately what hasn't been delivered.”

Ms Gougeon said an independent Scotland would have MEPs and “could potentially have a commissioner that could say be the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner too.” 

“Right now, even as it is with being outside of the EU, we're still dependent on the UK Government to negotiate on our behalf. 

“So as much as we can try and influence that negotiation as well, we're not the decision-makers in relation to that. So we ultimately want to be able to negotiate on our own behalf to really do what's best for the industry in Scotland.”

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The new paper is effectively a companion piece to last week’s entry in the Building a New Scotland series which focused on rejoining the EU.

It claims that the benefits for the marine sector in an independent Scotland in Europe would include environmental protections.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government consulted on proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas which would have banned fishing in 10% of Scotland’s seas. 

Huge opposition from coastal communities saw ministers quietly drop the plans. 

Asked if being in the EU could see Scotland forced to resurrect the divisive policy, Ms Gougeon said Scotland already had 37% of its seas designated as marine protected areas, going beyond the targets set by Brussels. 

She said: “What's really critical for us is actually working with our fishing industry, working with the industries who are dependent on our marine environment, as well as the communities who depend on them to make sure that we do protect our marine environment because it's only by protecting that we can ensure that we have these industries for generations to come and I think that's really critical.” 

The paper says there is “significant further potential” for Scotland’s marine sector under independence, and says regaining access to the EU single market for seafood products, and “enjoying the benefits of free movement and negotiating an equitable share of EU funding”  would have a huge impact for the industry and coastal communities. 

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However, Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said the paper failed to assess “the impact on Scotland of leaving Britain.”

She added: “We should all be incredibly proud of our exports, but it’s negligent not to acknowledge that by far the most important market is the rest of the UK.

“That is how separation would impact Scotland’s economy most, and yet ministers – by deliberately leaving this out of their assessments – are crassly ignoring it.

“This paper also repeats many of the fantasies set out in the EU paper last week, and doesn’t offer Scots any assurances on how membership would be achieved and at what cost.

“And island communities, described as ‘integral’ in this report, will be disappointed that a paper about the marine sector doesn’t acknowledge the Scottish Government’s brutal failing of the ferries network, or how a separate Scotland would run it any better.

“It must be noted the bill for these papers is being footed by us, the taxpayers.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for the people’s priorities, not the SNP’s.”