Chapter 7: Funding
The current European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), programmed to run to 2020, is a European grants scheme which supports fisheries, aquaculture, the seafood supply chain (including processing and fishing communities), wider maritime sectors and statutory data collection. The Fund is used, along with national funding, to co-finance projects and deliver support for sustainable development within the fishing and aquaculture sectors and for conservation of the marine environment, supporting sustainable growth and jobs in coastal communities.
The largest element of the EMFF has delivered in excess of £10m to Scottish ports projects in recent years.
Direct support to the catching sector has also been made available, in particular in relation to safety, including vessel health and safety improvements, individual flotation devices and the safety training delivered in Scotland through Seafish. Over £2m has come from the EMFF and Scottish Government to support these key requirements. Safety of our fishermen at sea is of paramount importance and we must ensure that we support our industry in the future to improve safety where necessary.
Through EMFF Scotland has around £14m (exchange rate dependent) to support the Scottish processing sector. Since the EMFF opened to the processing sector in 2016 it has provided over £10m in grants to 43 projects, this will enable over £20m of investment in processing facilities & access to markets.
Besides this, the fund supports the collection of fish stock data in respect of international requirements totalling £20m over the lifetime of the programme and provides funding at similar levels for compliance work, including joint deployments carried out with other Coastal States.
Together with associated indirect assistance, EMFF could be worth up to £150m to Scotland between 2014 and 2020. The proportion of EMFF funds allocated to Scotland represents 46% of overall UK funding, although UK Government negotiation has constrained EU marine assistance to Scotland to less than 2% of the funding available across the EU, despite Scotland having 9% of the EU’s sea fisheries landings and the 4th largest EU sea area to manage.
The HM Treasury have guaranteed that EMFF projects entered into before the end of 2020 will be respected. The details of that guarantee are still to be confirmed and it is subject to whatever agreement may be reached between the UK Government and the EU before the point of EU exit next March.
An additional source of funding is the domestically-funded emergency fisheries harbours scheme, which delivers key emergency support to keep fisheries harbours operational. After the devastating storms of 2012 this delivered in excess of £2m to the worst hit fisheries ports.
Following the UK’s Exit from the EU, a range of new funding arrangements will require to be considered and developed to succeed current EU arrangements.
No decisions have been made on any successor arrangements to EU funds, with discussions continuing between the Scottish Government and UK Government on the priorities and challenges post 2020. It is clearly important that there is clarity about the benefits public sector funding can deliver to allow the strongest possible case to be made for future public investment in the fisheries and wider marine sectors and ensure Scotland receives an equitable share of potential support, reflecting the importance of the marine sector to Scotland. Any approach to future Scottish marine funding should deliver an allocation which reflects the importance of marine sectors to Scotland. Following the UK’s Exit from the EU, a range of new funding arrangements will require to be considered and developed to succeed current EU arrangements.
Next Steps and Priorities
A key priority for the future must be to put in place the right support and funding to secure the safety of our fishers when they are at sea. A key element of any future funding intervention will be to significantly improve safety for vessels, delivering a holistic approach which looks at all elements and ensures comprehensive safety requirements are delivered for the fleet. Dedicated future funding would allow for improvements recommended by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), which the UK has not yet fully implemented. We would seek to prioritise the use of future funding to support the necessary adjustments needed to vessels to make them as safe as possible for going to sea.
Where the fishing industry may not seek direct interventions to support vessel costs, there are wider aspects which directly support the sector and rely heavily on public assistance. An example is support for port/harbour infrastructure in many harbours throughout Scotland. Harbours play a vital part in coastal communities and without funding to support their high maintenance costs they are at risk of becoming redundant. Support includes both emergency funding to deal with short term issues and longer term planning to ensure all marine sectors have the necessary access to Scottish Ports.
if the UK leaves the EU then a loss of access to labour may become an additional challenge. In the future a domestic replacement for the EMFF could include funding to support health and safety training and wider measures including support for new entrants to gain other relevant qualifications for example. Other areas where funding could be targeted is for assisting with the costs of visa applications for non-UK workers in the future.
We will also need to ensure that the costs of assistance currently made available from the EU to meet the costs of compliance and international obligations on stock assessments can be met post-EU exit.
Going forward there may be a case for making compliance with relevant legal and regulatory requirements (including those relating to exploitation) a prerequisite for obtaining grant funding.
In all scenarios for our future, the Scottish Government will also continue to be a champion of a Fair Work agenda, and we expect the fishing industry (as with other industries in Scotland) to deliver inclusive, as well as sustainable growth. A key aspect of this agenda will be a strong and ongoing promotion of the payment of the Scottish Living Wage.
The decision to use public money to support private businesses is not one to be taken lightly and should be deployed only where there is a legitimate reason to intervene in the face of market failure.
We are keen to seek views on the level of subsidy being sought by the fishing industry both on- and offshore, whether for businesses or in the pursuit of wider benefits delivered through aspects such as:
- infrastructure improvements and marketing support;
- enhanced sustainability and research;
- science and innovation;
- implementation of specific measures to support coastal communities and provision of opportunities to enable them to diversify;
- or development of complementary aspects such as marine tourism through fishing and maritime heritage projects.
We are keen to take views on where priorities should lie across these various elements and any others which may be seen as important. We are particularly interested in hearing ideas for how we can best support the improvement of safety at sea.
Processing promotional activity are already key parts of EMFF and should be seen in parallel with support for the catching sector.
There is also a question as to whether both public and private interests may be better served if support to businesses were delivered through loan arrangements, which more clearly ensure that public investment is tied to recipients who are financially sustainable, rather than direct subsidy in the form of grants.
High environmental standards can deliver an added premium for seafood products. Is it for Government to support environmental improvements and monitoring or should the industry fund these activities given the added premium they deliver?
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