The UK Government must provide urgent detail on its new seafood funding scheme or risk undermining the support it is looking to provide businesses impacted by EU Exit and coronavirus (COVID-19), Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.
In a letter to the UK Government ahead of the second meeting of the Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce on Friday, Mr Ewing called on the UK Government to consider withdrawing their scheme in Scotland, and to provide the funding to the Scottish Government to administer in a devolved area instead. He also requested clarity on the payments and caps to the new UK-wide seafood scheme which was announced at the weekend.
The scheme states that eligible catching and aquaculture businesses cannot apply to both the UK scheme and Scottish Government’s Seafood Producers Resilience Fund but the UK Government has yet to publish details on funding or eligibility with businesses currently unable to understand which fund would offer them most grant support.
Mr Ewing said:
“You will be aware that we have some serious concerns about both the design of the scheme itself, and your approach to announcing it without any consultation or engagement with devolved administrations or industry in advance. Beyond the serious issue of yet again UK Government ignoring the devolution settlement by spending in a devolved area, my key focus, as I’m sure is yours, is on doing what is best for an industry that is fighting for its survival due to the combined impacts of COVID-19 and EU Exit.
“I am concerned there is a lack of understanding of the handling of the two funding schemes and the real world implications in failing to discuss and align the both of them.”
The Scottish Government scheme for shellfish producers and catchers and trout farmers was announced as part of a £7.75 million package of support for the seafood industry earlier this month which also included funding for welfare and emergency activities through the Fishermen’s Mission, and investment in ports and harbours.