Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has welcomed confirmation that the Scottish Government has dropped its plans for a rod licence scheme for wild fishing. Fears had been raised that such a scheme could have undermined arrangements in Orkney, which already enjoys effective community ownership and free access to its trout fishery.
During Environment Questions in parliament this afternoon, Mr McArthur pressed the Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham to clarify the government’s position on rod licences, proposed in an earlier consultation on the draft Wild Fisheries Bill. This followed earlier correspondence between Orkney’s MSP and the Minister.
In response, Ms Cunningham made clear that the government had listened to the concerns that had been raised and had decided against introducing a rod licensing scheme.
Speaking during oral questions in the parliament this afternoon, Mr McArthur said he supported efforts to open up opportunities for more people to take up angling. However, he warned the Minister that “attempts to address legitimate ownership and access issues elsewhere in Scotland could actually damage the model Orkney has in place.”
He also encouraged the Minister to look at the system in place in Orkney and see what lessons might be learned for operating similar arrangements in other parts of the country. Ms Cunningham said she would be happy to do so and invited Orkney’s MSP to meet with her ahead of the Wild Fisheries Bill being introduced to parliament to discuss the matter in more detail..
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur said:
“I certainly support efforts to make access to wild fishing more widely available. There is no doubt that in certain parts of the country, issues around ownership and rights of access are preventing people taking up these opportunities.
“However, in attempting to address this problem, the government risked interfering with arrangements in Orkney that already work extremely well. We have the benefit of a wild fishing resource that is managed by the local community in the interests of all anglers. Introducing a rod licence scheme would have been costly, bureaucratic and potentially divisive.
“I am delighted that Roseanna Cunningham and her officials have taken on board the concerns that I and others have raised over recent months. I welcome the decision to drop plans for the licencing scheme and also the Minister’s willingness to look at whether the Orkney model provides lessons for opening up access to wild fishing elsewhere in Scotland”.