Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, confirmed plans to review the operation of DSFBs over the course of the current session of Parliament, as outlined in the SNP manifesto.
General Questions (Scottish Parliament – 30 Jun 2011)
Adam Ingram (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the future ownership of freshwater salmon fishing rights in Scotland held by the Crown Estate. (S4O-00083)
The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead): Last week, the Scottish Government published proposals to amend the Scotland Bill to devolve responsibility for the Crown estate in Scotland. That will ensure that Scotland’s assets are managed in Scotland for the benefit of all Scotland’s people. Once management of the Crown estate is devolved, the Scottish Government will consult stakeholders and the wider public on proposals to involve local authorities and communities in decisions about our marine resources, including Scotland’s iconic salmon fishing rights that are held as part of the Crown estate.
Adam Ingram: No doubt the minister will be aware of the work of the Highlands and Islands-based Crown estate working group back in 2006. Among the recommendations that the group made was that the Crown’s feudal rights be abolished and that ownership of salmon fishing be transferred to Scottish ministers and a scheme introduced for appropriately constituted local angling associations to acquire the beats that they currently tenant.
The Presiding Officer: Get to the question, Mr Ingram.
Adam Ingram: Does the cabinet secretary agree?
Richard Lochhead: The member highlights some very good points that go right to the heart of the debate about why the Crown estate should be managed in Scotland and not by Westminster. Of course, the Liberal Democrats, who supported the report that was published by Highland Council, can now stick to their word and fulfil their promise to support the devolution of the Crown estate to Scotland.
Of course our angling clubs and others should have a role in the consultation that we promised to hold in this Parliament once the Crown estate is devolved. We all agree that we have to democratise the management of our salmon fishing rights and the other assets managed by the Crown Estate in Scotland.
Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP): Does the Government have any plans to review salmon fishery boards in order to get more democratic control and transparency, in the interests of all species in each river catchment area?
Richard Lochhead: That is another good point. Yes, we have plans to review this whole area over the course of this session of Parliament, as outlined in our manifesto. We can all agree that there have been some improvements to the composition and role of the fishery boards in recent years, but it remains the case—I think that many of them would accept this—that their structures are outmoded. We need structures that are fit for purpose in the 21st century.
The SNP manifesto states:
“We will support and protect our famous and valuable salmon and freshwater fisheries. We will modernise the management structures and continue investing in the Strategic Framework for Scottish Freshwater Fisheries.”