CONSERVATIVE MEP FOR SCOTLAND

Peter Chapman is the man to represent Banffshire & Buchan Coast at Holyrood

Peter has already shown himself a ready champion of farmers. In addressing the SNP’s handling of the cod issue he is ready to fight for fishermen. Earlier in the year Peter was campaigning for the dualling of the A90. The Northeast needs a rural champion in Holyrood, and Peter is just the man for the job.

03.05.2016.

My visits to Peterhead invariably begin or end at the Dolphin Cafe by the fish market. When I worked for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation it was usually a 5.00am kick off to go round the fish market.  Peterhead is Europe’s largest whitefish port. Chances are that wherever you are eating your fish supper, the haddock or the cod passed through Peterhead. All in, the combined value of landings into Peterhead including herring, mackerel and shellfish is over £170m.

Peter Chapman, the Conservative candidate for Banffshire & Buchan Coast was waiting for me in the Dolphin Cafe. As well as being a local farmer and former NFUS Vice-President, Peter is Director of Aberdeen & Northern Marts and for six years was the local Director of the NFU Mutual Insurance Society. Peter knows his farming. That’s why he has spent the last months pressing the SNP farm minister to answer a simple question: when can farmers expect their payment? Peter is still waiting for his. So too are many farmers from the north east. Peter also knows that it isn’t just farmers who are hurting, it’s everyone in the rural supply chain. Farmers trust Peter, and know fine well that having Peter in Holyrood would give them a champion in the Parliament.

Peter is also troubled about the SNP and its plan for fisheries.  Just when the industry is back on an even keel, fishermen are concerned that the coming cod discard ban will undo their hard work. Back when I worked for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, cod was in crisis, boats tied up (many later decommissioned), sea areas closed, ‘days at sea’ on the agenda. After a decade of sacrifice and pain the fishing industry has turned itself around. In fact there is every prospect that the North Sea cod fishery will receive the highest sustainability accreditation from the Marine Stewardship Council. I recently wrote an obituary of Buchan Bulldog, Sir Albert MacQuarrie. When we met last on the pierhead at Peterhead (where else?), Sir Albert said he was fearful that he wouldn’t see the fishing come back, but come back it did, and he lived to see it.

Fish once discarded at sea must now be sorted, boxed, iced and stored on board the boat, and later onshore, until they can be disposed of, either for fishmeal or landfill. The costs are unknown, but the Scottish Government is clear - whatever the cost it will be paid by fishermen. When cod - the North Sea choke species - is included in the ban from 1 January 2017, the problem will come to a head. So far the SNP government has been burying its head in the sand.

As a member of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee I have pushed long and hard to ensure that these costs are quantified and then met by the authorities, in our case the Scottish Government. In Brussels, the SNP is invariably represented by Green MEPs in all serious fish discussions, and at one point the lead MEP seemed to be supporting the early introduction of the cod ban! At home and abroad the SNP has no plan for the introduction of the discard ban for cod. And that is a worry.

Peter has already shown himself a ready champion of farmers. In addressing the SNP’s handling of the cod issue he is ready to fight for fishermen. Earlier in the year Peter was campaigning for the dualling of the A90. The Northeast needs a rural champion in Holyrood, and Peter is just the man for the job.