|WE NEED A SECURE FREEDOM TO FISH
However, when Spain joined on 1st January 1986, its fleet amounted to three-quarters of the combined fleets of the Nine. As a result, EEC fishing capacity nearly doubled overnight. Too many vessels were chasing too few fish and every member state was required to cut its fishing fleet to make way for the newcomers.
For 16 years, Spain was allowed only limited access to "Community Waters".
However, for two decades, it has been known that 31 Dec 2002 would mark the end of the 20-year "transitional phase" of the Common Fisheries Policy, and that from 1st January 2003 a new version would ensure "equal access" to the fishing waters around Europe, for all member states.
Although opinion seems split about the real extent of the present "conservation crisis" in the North Sea, what is not in doubt is that the EU is using the "conservation crisis" argument as a convenient excuse for the severe cutbacks on the British, and predominantly Scottish, fleet - even as it makes increasing room for Spain, and others, to enjoy their rights of "equal access".
As Donald Macleod wrote succinctly in The Stornoway Gazette of 26 December 2002:
Fischler's solution to rectify 30 years of EU fishing mismanagement is to destroy the Scottish fishing fleet, despite their conservation efforts. To add insult to injury all EU countries, except the UK, will receive funds, much of it from the British taxpayer, to build and modernise their fishing fleets.
To save the British fishing industry from total disaster our Labour government must amend the European Communities Act  in order that we regain control of our fishing grounds. If they fail in this respect then they are putting the interests of the Europeans before that of our dole-bound fishermen.
The Scottish fishing fleet is to be cut by up to 15% as part of a compensation package of around £50m. From the 1st February, whitefish trawlers will only be allowed to fish for up to 15 days a month, with quotas cut by 45%.
The government stands accused of managing the decline of the British fishing industry instead of fostering a recovery.
But all the political parties must take their share of the blame. The Tories are to blame for selling out the waters in the first place. The Lib Dems are to blame for providing no alternative. The SNP are reduced to posturing about how they could be "leading the delegations to Brussels", if only it was their man doing the begging.
The real lessons are to be learned by looking at successful independent fishing nations like Iceland, Norway and Greenland - none of whom are members of the EU!
Indeed, Greenland, a Danish dependency, and the world's largest island, is the only country to have left the EU. Having the EU administer its fishing waters had been untenable and it negotiated withdrawal on 1st Feb 1985, as a result of the referendum which had been held on 23rd February 1982.
DELIVERING A SECURE FREEDOM TO FISH
The first step to re-empowering these local communities is to remove the power from the supra-national politicians, and put it back in the hands of the people.
Practically speaking, that means, firstly, coming out of the CFP, to ensure the local community has the freedom to fish as it chooses - with security, provided if necessary, at the national level by HM Armed Forces.
Once a community has a secure freedom to fish, it will then have the power in its own hands to determine its own existence - which will require tempering its freedom, with its technical, economic and ecological wisdom.
This secure freedom may also lead to fishing communities being able to co-operate internationally with other similarly secure fishing communities Europe-wide, in order to reach where possible, mutually respectful arrangements which benefit each other's economies and ecologies.