SCOTLAND’S shores, from the rugged beauty of Banffshire and Buchan Coast to the tranquillity of the Western Isles and all along our coastlines, hold a wealth of activity that many may pass by without noticing.

Fishing, which is integral to our heritage, supports livelihoods and local economies. It contributes not only to our food security and provides us with a healthy food source, but throughout history it reflects on the unyielding spirit of our coastal communities.

Our coastline is a bustling hub, a confluence of tradition and innovation. The fishing industry, a historical pillar, has been a constant, fostering community bonds and ensuring sustenance.

It’s a testament to the adaptability and resilience of our people, who have weathered storms both literal and metaphorical, to sustain this vital industry.

Over the years our coastal communities have sacrificed not just time and energy but oftentimes the lives of loved ones to this ancient work. This past week we saw another life lost at sea in my constituency, another heartbroken family. This is not just a job, it’s a way of life which is not for the faint-hearted and can end in the most devastating way. We must acknowledge the cost but also be resolute in ensuring a way to find ever-increasing safety for our fishers at sea.

READ MORE: Gordon Brown in challenge to Keir Starmer over benefit policies

We must look to the future and innovate in all aspects of what is known as the blue economy. The challenges faced by our coastal communities are evolving, with the urgency of climate action at the forefront. Our net-zero ambitions bring forth a spatial squeeze, a balance between progress and preservation. Renewable energy projects, vital for a sustainable future, share our waters with fishing vessels and provide us with new emerging challenges.

As we navigate these waters, the importance of dialogue and collaboration cannot be overstated. It’s essential that every voice, every perspective, is heard. That’s why I am delighted to announce the newly formed Cross-Party Group on Fisheries and Coastal Communities. Convening this group, I’m humbled to facilitate conversations that bridge the gap between policymakers and those who call our coasts home and workplaces.

Our coastal communities are diverse, each with unique strengths and challenges. From the harbours where the fishing industry thrives to the renewable energy projects dotting our shores, the picture of our coastline is rich and varied.

It’s this diversity that will fuel our discussions, and hopefully provide a holistic view of the issues at hand.

Addressing the spatial squeeze is a delicate dance. The waters that provide for our fishing fleets are the same that provide space to harness the winds for renewable energy. Striking a balance is imperative. Our discussions, enriched by varied perspectives, aim to foster understanding and carve a path forward which respects both tradition and innovation.

Tackling climate change is an urgent task, but it’s essential that our approach is measured and inclusive. Our coastal communities often feel on the outskirts of any policy, often skipped past in the urban and rural aspects of debates as literal outliers, so they must not be left behind. Their voices, their experiences, are integral in shaping policies that are both progressive and considerate of their needs as providers.

Scotland’s blue economy, encompassing both fisheries and emerging industries, holds immense potential. It’s a source of jobs, innovation, and sustainability.

Yet, it’s also a realm of complexities, where conservation and development intersect. Marine Protected Areas, essential for biodiversity must co-exist with bustling harbours and thriving seas, a reflection of our commitment to both environmental stewardship and economic prosperity must be carefully considered in the balance in getting it right. I truly believe this must be in the hands of those who must deliver it.

The National:

Our journey towards a sustainable future is a collective one. It’s a path paved with discussions, debates, and, most importantly, action. The Cross-Party Group on Fisheries and Coastal Communities is a vessel for change, a platform where diverse voices converge to solidify our discussions into action points to inform and deliver solutions.

Every community, every individual, has a stake in this journey. From industry professionals to coastal residents, the insights and experiences shared are invaluable.

It has to be a collaborative effort, one that is a testament to the strength of our desired goals and the depth of our commitment to ensuring the longevity of the coasts and seas that we rely so heavily on.

As we move forward, we must celebrate the richness of our coastal communities. I have often heard negative chat regarding our fisheries, and that is so disappointing. If we look to the Nordic countries, they revere their fishers and celebrate all they have produced from the sea because of them. If we want to ensure we are a good food nation and take examples from nations like the Mediterranean for example, we only have to look at how they all support their fisheries and give thanks for their incredible seafood. Likewise, we need to be more boastful and proud of what we have!

Our coastline is not just a geographic boundary; it’s a living, breathing entity. It’s a space where tradition meets innovation, where the old co-exists with the new. It’s a reflection of our identity, our values and our aspirations. The Cross-Party Group on Fisheries and Coastal Communities is not just a platform for dialogue; it’s a catalyst for change. Together, we’re not just shaping policies; we’re potentially shaping the future of our nation.

Our coastal industries deserve recognition and appreciation for the incredibly hard task they have in providing the food on our plates while generating the energy to cook it and having to navigate that in a climate emergency environment.

Not an easy task, and one that will have contentions.

Our coastal communities are vital to Scotland’s economy and will help to support an independent nation. Let’s give them the support they deserve while they navigate through an arduous and highly sensitive time.