I have been left less than impressed by the Scottish Government’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to wild fishing and their current proposals for reform.
The SNP is currently consulting on wide-ranging changes, including the creation of a network of organisations to manage wild fishing, funded by a national levy. At the moment, the River Tweed is managed by a Commission, in exactly the way the Scottish Government wants other wild fisheries to be managed. It is self-financing and sustainable and above all democratic and accountable, with representatives from the SBC and others on the Board.
Unfortunately the Scottish Government is refusing to be flexible by exempting the Tweed from its proposed national system. This appears to be yet another example of the central belt focused SNP applying a one-size-fits-all approach to rural areas.
These proposals will risk the future of the Tweed, which contributes millions to the local economy and supports the equivalent of 480 full-time jobs. I hope Ministers will think again and exempt the Tweed from these reforms.
It won’t have escaped your attention that the Chancellor announced the budget for the forthcoming year. I was very pleased with a lot of the measures, which I think will be good for Borderers. In particular, the new National Living Wage, which will rise to £9 per hour by 2020 will mean a pay rise for thousands of Borderers on low incomes. Despite predictable protests from the SNP, this Living Wage goes even further than they were calling for, because it is higher and also because it is compulsory.
And people on low incomes will also be able to keep more of what they earn, because the personal threshold will continue to increase. In fact, within the next few years, someone on minimum wage, working 30 hours a week won’t pay any income tax at all under Conservative plans. The campaign to save St Abbs Lifeboat Station from closure goes from strength to strength and I feel there is a real chance that the decision might be reversed. I was delighted to march with hundreds of local residents in the village the other weekend in a great public display of the strength of feeling about this decision.
Our lifeboat crews on the Berwickshire coast are made up of many brave men and women who risk their lives to save others. And while I understand RNLI’s temptation to remove this service with Eyemouth station so closeby, it is clear the St Abbs station provides an invaluable and lifesaving service to divers and other water sports enthusiasts.