Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, many communities, many families in Scotland are highly dependent upon the fishing industry, an industry which has had massive economic and social pain inflicted upon it as a direct result of political decisions made in Brussels under the Common Fisheries Policy. The rocketing cost of fuel could be the final straw for many businesses - and a fishing boat in Scotland is a business, very often a family-run business - which have been forced by the CFP to operate this year for only 15 days each month. Some EU governments apparently recognise the exceptional economic pressure which rising fuel prices puts upon the fisheries sector. Recently France, supported by at least four other Member States, sought a long-term Community mechanism for granting public aid to the sector. This initiative was opposed - unsurprisingly - by the UK, citing the need to respect state aid and competition rules. I think the real reason for the UK failing to support that proposal was, as usual, that it did not wish for any precedent which might require it to aid its fishing industry - which it never does. Mr Fischler, regrettably, was also unsympathetic, apparently saying that fisheries, unlike the agriculture sector, could easily respond to the fuel price increases by increasing fish prices. That is all very well, but what about the consumer, and what about the fact that fish products are relatively healthy and are recommended by dieticians to consumers? The agriculture sector in Scotland is also suffering greatly from high fuel costs, not just through the direct use of fuel on farms, but also owing to the excessive cost of sending their produce to distant markets, an economic pressure which the UK Treasury has also added to in the form of unjustly high levels of taxation. But it is people and communities and not just businesses that suffer. The Orcadian, the newspaper of the Orkney Islands, reports a 67% rise in the price of fuel leading to an overspend by Orkney Ferries. Sometimes in the Orkney Isles, the Shetland Isles and the Western Isles it is normal and indeed essential for people to take two ferries to get to work or to shop. This is not just affecting businesses, it is impacting on a whole community.

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