The River Tweed Commission (RTC), self-financing elected body which has run the fishings on the world-famous catchment for over two centuries, is facing extinction.
The abolition of the cross-border organisation and replacement by a Fisheries Management Organisation (FMO) – one of a network of such new bodies across Scotland – is explicit in the recommendations of an independent review, commissioned and recently published by the Scottish Government.
Amid a raft of proposals, not only would the RTC bite the dust, but the annual £750,000 which supports all aspects of Tweed river management – raised from a levy on beat owners and based on the self-reporting of local catches – could also be redirected to Scotland’s less successful fisheries.
Overseeing this regime will be an extra arm of the Scottish Government – a National Wild Fisheries Unit – which will “give the system strategic direction”.
Although there is no indication yet if and when any of the recommendations will be implemented, the SNP Government at Holyrood has made no secret of its desire to reform and modernise the management of the country’s wild fisheries.
The review claims the changes will “strengthen democratic accountability, encourage greater participation and provide confidence that sufficient resources will be available to enable core priorities to be delivered”.
But for Andrew Douglas Home, a former chairman of both the RTC and its scientific and research wing for the Tweed Foundation, the radical proposals are unnecessary, unworkable and damaging to an industry worth an estimated £20million a year to the local economy.
Blogging on his popular Tweedbeats website, Mr Douglas Home, who owns one of the catchment’s most successful beats near Coldstream, delivers a scathing attack on what he feels is unwarranted interference by what he describes as BCG (Big Central Government).
“BCG will now raise a central standard levy on all Tweed fishery owners, including those 20 per cent in England who have no vote in electing BCG, at a level which will be decided by BCG without any reference to the Tweed,” wrote Mr Douglas Home. “These funds may not come back to Tweed where ‘the need is greater in other areas’. In other words, the Tweed will have some of the funds, raised from it by BCG, confiscated and removed to other areas, without any right of appeal.
“Yet the review makes no comment or criticism of how Tweed has implemented necessary restrictions on killing salmon up to now, including full 100 per cent catch and release to the end of June every year, and the RTC, comprising 81 members elected by law, spending over £2million in reducing commercial netting.”
Fearing that the outlook is “pretty bleak for Tweed”, the blog concludes: “Control, and who should best exercise it for the good of Tweed, for the people who live around it in both lands and for all its fish, is at stake – and the stakes could not be much higher.”
The RTC is due to discuss its response to the recommendations of Scotland’s Wild Fisheries Review at its quarterly meeting next month.