Ewing: UK Government must provide clarity over forestry and fishing

The UK Government must give details on how Scotland’s forestry and fishing sectors will be funded post-Brexit, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.

Ahead of a meeting between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the devolved administrations, Mr Ewing said that decisions on funding must be made to provide greater clarity.

Under current arrangements, both sectors receive investment from EU funding schemes such as the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), and Pillar 2 Rural Development funds for forestry.

Mr Ewing said: “The potential negative impact of Brexit on Scotland’s rural economy is becoming clearer all the time.

“That’s in stark contrast to the lack of clarity being provided by the UK Government in response to my requests for guarantees that a fair level of funding to our fishermen and foresters will be provided by the Treasury, post-Brexit, to replace current funding from the European Union.

“Although I welcome the UK Government’s recent commitment to long-term marine funding from 2021 comparable to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), it is vital that this support fairly reflects the size and requirements of Scotland’s very significant marine sector.

“More funding must be provided, which could deliver much-needed investment in a range of areas, including maritime infrastructure at ports and harbours across the country.”

Mr Ewing also stated that funding commitments should be given to the forestry industry imminently, and stated that they must be long-term.

“That’s absolutely essential for a sector where projects run for years and decades rather than days and weeks,” he said.

“The Confederation of Forest Industries (CONFOR) recently wrote to the Environment Secretary to express their alarm that no guarantees have been provided for ‘Pillar 2’ funding, which is vital to that sector, to remain post-Brexit.

“Unless resolved immediately, we could see progress on initiatives like woodland creation schemes grinding to a halt, or being unwound – impacting on jobs, the wider rural economy, and climate change mitigation targets.

“With only a few months to go, it’s completely unacceptable that Scotland is still being kept in the dark. People’s livelihoods are at stake, and I intend to get answers soon.”