Maureen’s Matters - Who would you choose?

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A Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary with seven years of experience, or an unelected member of the House of Lords with no experience?

That was the choice facing David Cameron when his Environment Secretary was unable to attend key EU fishing talks this week.

Regrettably, although unsurprisingly, Mr Cameron chose the latter option with Lord de Mauley rather than Richard Lochhead MSP being chosen as the replacement.

Notwithstanding the clear lack of democratic mandate associated with a Lord representing the people of Scotland on this matter, it is completely absurd to place the interests of one of our most vital industries in the hands of someone with neither experience nor prior involvement in the fishing sector.

To provide greater context, the area of policy under discussion was deep sea stock regulations, where quotas are agreed upon. Scotland has the dominant interest in this matter, with 95% of all UK landings of these species taking place by Scottish vessels.

When this figure is coupled with the fact that both Mr Cameron and the UK Foreign Secretary have previously agreed that it is reasonable, given Scotland’s overwhelming interests in fisheries, that Scottish Ministers could speak for the UK delegation, it becomes ever more apparent that the partnership of nations talked of prior to the referendum has been swiftly forgotten.

Ultimately, this matter represents the archaic manner in which Westminster operates when it comes to the EU and, more importantly, the need for a formal agreement within the UK which will allow Scotland a guaranteed say in the matters which impact it the most.

It is my hope that the Smith Commission will take heed of examples such as this, and enable Scottish Ministers to speak in defence of our key industries.