haddock fish

Scotland’s fisheries secretary has slammed Westminster’s refusal to devolve the seafood levy as “illogical and damaging”.

Richard Lochhead wrote to Liz Truss at the end of last year calling for urgent clarity on devolution of food levies after it emerged the National Fish & Chip awards, organised by seafood levy body Seafish, were being used to promote frozen Norwegian white fish into the UK market.

However, the UK government has refused to devolve the seafood levy, prompting Lochhead to warn today he would push for “maximum autonomy” within the current arrangements.

“The UK government’s continued refusal to devolve the seafood levy is illogical, damaging and a missed opportunity. Quite clearly, decisions on spending levy raised in Scotland should be taken in Scotland in the interests of Scotland’s seafood sector,” he said.

“We currently have the absurd situation where Scots levy money has been used to promote frozen fish from Norway in the UK but can’t be used to promote our own seafood as ‘Scottish’.”

Lochhead argued Scotland’s fishing industry, which is primarily based on landing and processing locally caught fresh fish, was a “world away from the large scale importation of foreign-caught frozen fish” that characterises the wider UK fish sector.

“That’s why I am extremely unhappy at the UK government’s decision and why I am left with the only option of pushing for maximum autonomy for Scotland within the current arrangements,” he added.

“Unfortunately that’s very much the second best option for our industry but administrative reforms can at least give Scotland the key role in deciding how the Scottish share of the levy should be spent.”