European fisheries funding is becalmed

editorial image

It could support coastal communities across Scotland to the tune of around £80m over the next five years.

But attempts to make the case for East Berwickshire and East Lothian to maximise the benefits of the European Maritime Fisheries Fund 2014-20 (EMFF)are in troubled waters.

Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker has been charged to write to the Scottish Government expressing concern over the delay in implementing the new funding.

The impasse centres on which umbrella organisation, representing local marine interests, should make funding decisions.

The EMFF is replacing the European Fisheries Fund which, since 2008, has been used by the Scottish Government to make 12 awards in Berwickshire amounting to £588,000 and enabling investment of around £1.5m on a range of projects.

These included four processing and marketing grants worth £419,000, five vessel modernisation grants totalling £27,000 and grants of £140,000 to improve facilities at Eyemouth Harbour.

Locally, these were brokered by the Eyemouth and East Berwickshire Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG).

Last year, as part of SBC’s local development plan it was agreed that the FLAGs of Berwickshire and East Lothian should combine, reflecting “coherence between the areas in terms of geography, commercial relationships and fishing practices”.

But SBC’s executive heard this week that the Scottish Government’s Marine Scotland directorate is insisting that decision-making local action groups should be “regionalised” and that the Fife coast should be included in the new FLAG.

“This is a change of approach and there is a risk it will result in a delay to the launch and implementation of the local development funding programme [via EMFF],” stated a report by chief economic development officer Bryan McGrath.

“The fishing sector and local authorities are concerned this delay will have an adverse effect on programme delivery.

“The strength of the FLAG approach is based on the local knowledge of its members. A regional FLAG would dilute this.”