McGrigor criticises First Minister’s rhetoric on shipping and international law

Jamie McGrigor, MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, has joined the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation in criticising First Minister Alex Salmond for disregarding international law.

The First Minister, in his speech to the College of Europe on 28 April, referred to ”…the fishing fleets of 12 countries being denied any access to Scottish waters and as a consequence, their access to Norwegian waters, which is also dependent on Scottish access;…”

Whilst, under Article 19(i) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Scotland can deny access to fishing vessels to its own waters, it does not have the right to deny the right of innocent passage for any vessel that wishes to cross Scottish waters.  This is cemented in Article 24 (Duties of the coastal State) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states inter alia that:

“1. The coastal State shall not hamper the innocent passage of foreign ships through the territorial sea except in accordance with this Convention.  In particular, in the application of this Convention or of any laws or regulations adopted in conformity with this Convention, the coastal State shall not:

(a) impose requirements on foreign ships which have the practical effect of denying or impairing the right of innocent passage; or

(b) discriminate in form or in fact against the ships of any State or against ships carrying cargoes to, from or on behalf of any State.….”

Reacting to the First Minister’s speech, Jamie McGrigor said:

“It is appalling to see the utter disregard for international law and treaties shown by First Minister Alex Salmond.

“It seems as if the First Minister is starting to realise that an independent Scotland would not be admitted automatically to the European Union and has now turned to his favourite tactic, namely scaremongering.  His statement is nothing short of trying to extort the European Union to allow Scotland in.

“However, I do not think that breaking international law should be the tactic for an independent Scotland in order to jump the queue for admission to the EU.  We would simply have to stand in line, as already highlighted by the majority of experts in evidence to the European Committee” (of the Scottish Parliament).