The Scottish Conservatives today persuaded the SNP to reduce the fines that could be imposed on fish farmers following the passing of new legislation.
Scottish Government proposals would have seen District Salmon Fisheries Boards and proprietors given the same penalties as those handed out for people convicted of dangerous driving.
However, Rural Affairs and Environment spokesman Alex Fergusson argued that the fines - given out for failing to monitor the effects of a ministerial conservation order - were too heavy handed.
SNP environment and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse conceded the point and two Scottish Conservative amendments to the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill were accepted, resulting in the severity of the penalties being reduced from level 4 to level 3.
The Conservatives submitted a total of five amendments designed to bring more transparency to the fish farm industry, but the SNP refused to support the other three.
Scottish Conservative Rural Affairs and Environment spokesman Alex Fergusson MSP said:
“I welcome this victory for common sense, which would have seen people in the fishing industry hit with heavy-handed fines.
“While it is right that people should be punished when wrong-doing is committed, the legislation as drafted was too extreme, and imposed a penalty comparable to careless driving.
“To be clear, this is not about money, it is simply a question of the punishment fitting the crime.
“I am pleased the minister has agreed that the bill as drafted was too harsh and could have simply discouraged capable individuals from joining fishery boards for fear of incurring disproportionate fines.”
Dr Alan Wells, Policy & Planning Director at the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) said:
“ASFB welcomes the agreement of the Parliament to the two amendments tabled by Alex Fergusson.
“We believe this has resulted in a more proportionate sanction in relation to the new duty placed on District Salmon Fishery Boards.”