The single market is of central importance to Scotland’s seafood industry. In 2014 alone, Scotland exported approximately £461 million of fish and seafood to the European Union.[1] Currently, Scotland’s fisheries zone makes up around 60% of the UK’s and some of the most productive fishing grounds in the world.[2] Within the EU, fisheries policy is driven by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).[3]

The SNP acknowledges that the CFP isn’t perfect. It is widely recognised (including by the European Commission) to have been a failure in the past, with an over-centralised management regime, lacking the flexibility to adapt to the varied conditions existing in the different sea areas of Europe. Scotland’s coastal communities have suffered as a direct result of the UK Government signing us up to a flawed CFP. Most of the flaws in the CFP have derived from the UK Government’s failure to properly represent our interests.

All the way back in the 1970s, Scotland’s fishing industry was described as “expendable” in EU negotiations by the UK Government in an official Foreign Office memo.

Partly due to pressure from MEPs, a recent review of the CFP framework resulted in a move towards decentralised management, enabling Member States to work together on a regional basis.

If Scotland’s voice were heard in the Council, rather than that of the UK Government, then it would be possible to work towards a more effective fishing policy for Scotland. In the meantime, we must continue to pressure the UK Government into taking full advantage of the current move towards decentralising fisheries management.


However, there are real trade and financial opportunities for our seafood sector within the EU. As well as access to the single market, funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund aims to help fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing, supports coastal communities, finances projects that create jobs and improves the quality of life along European coasts.

From this funding, between 2014 and 2020, Scottish seafood and marine sectors were to receive approximately €107 million in direct assistance supporting research, development and structural reform.[5] From 2008 to 2015, £18 million of funding benefited 142 projects and created 61 jobs in Fraserburgh. This funding made a real difference to the fishing industry locally, as well as the local community generally.[6]

Scotland would bring a cooperative and strong voice to the EU in terms of fisheries, sharing knowledge and best practice as a constructive European partner. 

[1] ‘Focus on seafood exports’, The Scottish Government, August 2015.

[2] ’The Reformed Common Fisheries Policy,’ SPICE, June 2014.

[3] ‘The European Commission Facts and Figures of the Common Fisheries Policy,’ EU Commission, 2014.

[4] ‘Aquaculture: the key facts,’ Scotland’s Environment, June 2014.

[5] ‘Scotland’s Future and Scottish Fisheries,’ The Scottish Government, August 2014.

[6] ‘Fisheries funding delivering’, The Scottish Government, March 2016.