Fisheries Secretary slams UK Government decision not to devolve fish levies.
Food Secretary Richard Lochhead has slammed the UK Government's decision to reject the Scottish Government's request for food levy raising powers to be devolved to Scotland.
The decision, which Mr Lochhead says makes a mockery of the UK Government's claim that Scotland will have the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world, could potentially damage Scottish producers and constrain the food sector's ambition to develop new domestic and international markets.
Mr Lochhead has called on the UK Government to urgently think again so that an end can be brought to the current anomalies such as those levies paid by our sheep farmers going to promote English lamb and the scandalous situation of our fishing levies being used to promote frozen Norwegian fish to the UK market.
Mr Lochhead said:
"It is common sense that decisions on fish and other food levies should be taken in Scotland for Scotland's benefit and the latest snub by the UK Government adds insult to injury just weeks after it emerged Scottish levies have been used to promote Norwegian fish into the UK market.
"The current arrangements are holding our seafood sector back and full devolution of fish and other food levies would enable us to prevent the anomalies which leave our fishermen and farmers baffled.
"More importantly, devolving powers over food levies could be transformational for Scotland's food sector by enabling us to do much more to promote locally sourced produce and support our fishermen, farmers and others who work tirelessly to produce our world-renowned food.
"Scotland has around 70 per cent of UK quota for key fish stocks and there is no logical reason for the UK Government to reject our request – indeed it makes a mockery of their claim that Scotland will have the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world when we can't even control our own food levies.
"Once again this decision by the UK Government will be a blow to the primary producers and food businesses across Scotland who have ambition to grow and reach new markets. There is still time for the UK Government to do the right thing and bring forward an amendment to the Scotland Bill and I urge them to do this without delay "