Speech: Stage 1 Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill

I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the bill’s basic principles at stage 1. Although a lot of my colleagues have identified during the debate issues that require more work or consideration, I think that there is consensus that work can be done to improve the sustainability, accountability and transparency of the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors. Indeed, the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s report on the bill commented that

“the current draft of the Bill is very much the starting point, and should the Bill reach Stage 2 it will require amendment in order to make it … robust”.

There is no doubt that the cabinet secretary and the Government have a tough and delicate task on their hands. Again, the committee’s report reflected the difficulties in finding consensus on the way forward on contentious issues due to current difficulties between the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors. Although it is not something that can always be addressed by legislation, I am sure that we would all agree that improving the relationships could and should be part of the process.

The importance of the aquaculture and wild fisheries sectors to Scotland’s Highlands and Islands communities must not be underestimated. The popularity of Scottish salmon continues to grow at an exponential rate, with aspirations to increase sustainable production by 4 to 5 per cent per annum until 2020.

Enabling the sectors to continue to grow and to provide jobs and exports in an ecologically sound manner is essential to ensuring the sustainability not only of the sectors but of many rural and remote communities. However, do we know what the increase of 5 per cent per annum until 2020 will look like? Planning applications are already being refused on the basis of proliferation. We need a national plan if we want to see such growth.

Recognising the opportunity for Scotland and realising its potential is the right thing to do. Being sensitive to the natural environment, legislating against abuse by a large industry, always protecting the fantastic wild salmon and its life cycle and believing that quality must not be compromised by quantity should all be Scotland’s trademarks.

Of the issues that the bill seeks to address, I am of the opinion that the presence of sea lice and the strategies used to contain them will be paramount to the bill’s success. I welcome the minister’s announcement of £1 million of funding for scientific research. I believe that that is essential not only to reassure the public but to ensure that we have sustainable growth in fish farming.

In conclusion, I support the bill at stage 1. I look forward to seeing work on the bill continue over the coming weeks and months to create a strong framework for the sector.

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Motion: Faroese Withdrawal from Herring International Management Plan

Motion S4M-05462: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 24/01/2013

Faroese Withdrawal from Herring International Management Plan
That the Parliament expresses its concern at the Faroe Islands’ withdrawal from international sharing arrangements for the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock; understands that this withdrawal will result in the Faroe Islands setting its own unilateral quota for the species and that the Faroe Islands has previously withdrawn from international stock management plans for mackerel, which has since led to mackerel being removed by the Marine Conservation Society from its list of fish suitable to eat; considers the future of sustainable fisheries to lie in internationally agreed stock management plans and not in unilateral action, and supports the calls of the Scottish fishing industry, which continues to fish sustainably, for sanctions to be imposed unless all concerned parties can reach an agreed management plan.

Press Release: Local MSP Reflects on Latest Trip to Shetland (July 26th)

Jean Urquhart MSP was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Shetland during the parliamentary recess and to meet up with old and new friends alike.

The list MSP was in Shetland for a week, and met with various local businesses and organisations to discuss their issues and hear views on the independence referendum. Jean was accompanied by SNP MEP Ian Hudghton for two days, with whom she held a joint surgery and conducted interviews with local press.

As well as meeting representatives from the agricultural, aquaculture, fisheries and gas industries to discuss the work the Scottish Government is undertaking in their respective sectors, Jean had an opportunity to discuss her past business experience with the Shetland Tourism Association and Shetland Federation of Small Businesses. Jean also met with members of Shetland Island Council and attended a meeting of the SNP branch in Shetland.

Commenting on her trip, Jean said:

“I am always pleased to visit Shetland and gain more knowledge about the islands. Shetland’s positive contribution to both the Scottish economy and to Scottish society is one that I am acutely aware of, and continually promote within the Parliament.

“It was good this time to have the chance to catch up with folk that I met as a candidate in Shetland at the last election, as well as to hear more detail on how the Scottish Government can assist Shetland and its key industries.

“The SNP is committed to every corner of Scotland, and it is vital that we continue to listen to all communities and respond accordingly.”

Jean will be returning to Shetland at the end of August and hopes to spend time visiting primary and secondary schools in her role as a member of the Education & Culture Committee- perfectly timed to enjoy the Screen and Book Festival at the end of the week before parliament reconvenes.

Motion: Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s Seafood Champion Nomination

Date of Lodging: 24 July 2012

Short Title: Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group’s Seafood Champion Nomination

S4M-03699 Jean Urquhart () (Scottish National Party): That the Parliament congratulates the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group on being shortlisted for the Seafood Champion Awards in Hong Kong; understands that the group is one of 15 finalists and that the winner will be announced on 7 September 2012; considers this nomination to be a recognition of the dedication of the Scottish fishing industry to sustainable fishing practices; recognises the importance of fishing to the Scottish economy, particularly to Shetland, where the industry is a major employer and component of the local economy; believes that continued reform of the common fisheries policy is essential for the industry to continue to play this role, and wishes the group success in the future.