By Bill Heaney

Those of you, such as some West Dunbartonshire Council officials who enjoy fine dining and a glass or two of wine in a luxury hotel restaurant, will be delighted to hear the news from the Scottish Parliament this week.

Monkfish, which the officials enjoyed so much after a golfing day out at Cameron House Hotel that one of them ordered a double helping – he may by now have taken the infamous golden parachute to retirement – remains a priority for Scottish fishing interests for 2024.

“It is a stock of key socioeconomic importance to many Scottish vessels, and I have instructed my negotiators to work to mitigate any further cuts in quotas next year,” the Fisheries Minister Mairi Gougeon told the Holyrood Parliament this week.

This information emerged during a lengthy debate in Holyrood about fishing quotas at which it was not compulsory to wear yellow oilskins and wellington boots.

Ms Gougon, we are told, is also looking forward to the completion of the benchmark on that stock early next year, which will help to inform discussions about the stock’s future management.

She said: “I have instructed officials to seek further discussion with our negotiating partners on the approach to stocks where decreases are routinely proposed simply because of the methodologies that are being used by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea rather than because of actual changes in stock dynamics.

“Scientific advice is critical to sustainable fisheries management and decision making, but we need to have confidence that we are working with and making decisions based on the best available evidence.”

Ms Gougeon added: “This is my third year of leading Scotland through the annual negotiations and, every year, the objective is the same: to protect Scotland’s interests.

“These negotiations are crucial for Scotland, providing economic opportunities for our coastal communities and safeguarding the health of fish stocks and ecosystems for generations to come.

“Going into 2024, I want to build on the successes of last year’s negotiations, which resulted in outcomes worth around £500 million to Scotland. The negotiations also have a role to play in the evolution of Scotland’s world-class fishing sector.”

It was after these negotiations it was decided that the top priority within the trilateral and UK-EU bilateral is the newly defined northern shelf cod stock.

Ms Gougeon said: “Secondly, monkfish remains a priority for Scottish interests for 2024. It is a stock of key socioeconomic importance to many Scottish vessels, and I have instructed my negotiators to work to mitigate any further cuts in quotas next year.”

Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton, below,  told Ms Gougeon: “The fantastic work of our fishermen is placing Scotland’s seas on a sustainable footing, and I commend them for that. Under the UK Fisheries Act 2020, we must consider the biological, social and economic pillars of sustainability equally.

“However, in light of the lessons learned from the highly protected marine areas calamity—which was presided over by the Scottish National Party and Green Government—putting jobs and livelihoods at risk, will the Scottish Government ensure that our hard-working fishermen are put at the heart of that sustainable approach to ensure that we keep the lights on across Scotland’s coastal communities?”

And keep the monkfish coming, of course.

The Council have an extra £50,000 to spend now they are closing Balloch Library, so there is every possibility that some of that money could be spent on monkfish canapes to go with the wine at their next civic reception.

Or perhaps they’ll lay on a free fish tea for those Haldane residents seeking warmth and a bit of company in their about to be over-crowded school campus-community hub-cum library?

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