A leading Scottish Tory failed to give backing to SNP Euro-MP Ian Hudghton in his attempt to return fisheries control to Scotland. In a crucial meeting in the European parliament today, Struan Stevenson MEP abstained on a series of votes which sought to limit Brussels' control over fisheries.

Mr Hudghton however welcomed the decision of Lib Dem MEP Elspeth Attwooll to back the SNP position of removing exclusive fisheries control from the proposed constitution of Europe.

Mr Hudghton stated:

"Mr Stevenson's decision to abstain on every single one of today's fisheries votes shows political cowardice of the highest degree. Mr Stevenson always claims that his position as President of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee gives him enhanced powers. What's the point in having a Scottish president if he doesn't fight for Scottish fishermen?"

"Congratulations must however go out to Elspeth Attwooll who defied her Holyrood colleagues and gave full backing to the SNP's stance of removing fisheries from the exclusive powers of the EU."

"I hope that Mrs Attwooll is successful in persuading her colleagues in the Scottish Executive to follow suit and back this position. At the same time, I hope Mr Stevenson's colleagues in Edinburgh take notice of the fact that their man in Europe failed to back the party line of abolishing the failed CFP".

Notes:

The vote in today's fisheries committee was on a report written by Struan Stevenson on the proposed Constitution for Europe. In his report, Mr Stevenson sought to enshrine the CFP in the Constitution.

Mr Hudghton sought to change the report to the effect that fisheries control would be removed from Brussels' control. Mr Stevenson abstained in every vote.

Mrs Attwooll signed up to an SNP amendment which called the current draft of the Constitution "anomalous, unjustified and legally unworkable" with respect to the fisheries sections.

Mrs Attwooll's position contrasts with Lib Dem minister Tavish Scott MSP. In a Scottish Parliament debate on 12th June 2003 he stated: "The SNP claims that the convention proposes additional competence for the EU in the fisheries field. That is untrue. Nothing in the draft proposals under consideration...would bring about any change to the current position."

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