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SNP President Ian Hudghton MEP today (Tuesday) welcomed a vote in the European Parliament plenary session which gave full support to the SNP position on retention of the Shetland Box, an area of protected waters around northern Scotland.
The text, which had received the support of the parliament's Fisheries Committee last month, survived despite a last minute attempt by Spanish MEPs to water it down. The SNP text called for the retention of the protected zone beyond the European Commission's current proposal for a three-year lifespan.
The policy received the support of all Scottish MEPs - despite the previous failure of Labour to call for the retention of the Box in the original version of the parliamentary report. Mr Hudghton commented:
"The overwhelming decision of the European Parliament to support an area of protected waters around the north of Scotland is very welcome indeed. MEPs from around Europe have recognised the importance of these waters to Scotland's northern communities, and have dealt Spanish politicians a heavy blow.
"The Commission must now recognise that the principle of unrestricted access to waters is unsustainable. Fishing rights must be allocated to the communities who depend on them. That is now the political will of the European Parliament and no amount of Spanish lobbying should be allowed to undermine that.
"I have spent the last few weeks speaking to parliamentary colleagues from around Europe and am grateful for the support they have given Scotland's fishing communities today. The parliament's vote is a rare example of good news coming from Europe for Scotland's fishermen - and in the future we must build on the good will demonstrated towards our coastal communities".
The report on the Shetland Box was supported by a majority of 10 to 1.
The Spanish block of MEPs attempted to delete the key phrase that "should the proposed further evaluations of the Shetland Box take longer than the three-year period currently anticipated, the current regulation should remain in force, in line with the STECF [i.e. scientific] advice.
This key phrase was added to the original report by an SNP amendment. The original report, written by the Labour Party, had supported the Commission's line that the Shetland Box be retained for three years only.
The Parliament adopted a total of nine texts submitted to the report by the SNP.