Commissioners hold a tight line against Tweed management reforms

On The River Tweed near Paxton.
On The River Tweed near Paxton.

The body which has run the world famous fishery on the River Tweed and its catchment for over 200 years will meet on June 1 to discuss radical reforms which could lead to its demise.

Under policy options set out at the weekend by the Scottish Government, the self-financing River Tweed Commission (RTC) would cease to exist and be replaced by a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO).

The paper embraces the results of an independent review group which reported late last year.

Unveiling 12 weeks of consultation on Friday, environment minister Dr Aileen McLeod MSP said: “The Scottish Government will take forward an ambitious programme of wild fisheries reform.

“Scotland’s wild fisheries are a valuable natural resource and it is therefore vital we have a modern, evidence-based management system that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

The consultation proposes that a network of SCIOs, fully representative of all fishing interests, including local authority and public sector, should operate across Scotland and be funded by a national levy.

In order to draw up a response to the consultation, the RTC will hold a special meeting in the Cross Keys Hotel, Kelso, at 9.30am on Monday, June 1.

However, there seems little doubt commissioners will deliver a resounding call for the status quo as far as Tweed is concerned.

Nick Yonge, clerk to the RTC, told us: “When the review reported last year, the RTC agreed that a new wild fisheries management system could be appropriate for the rest of Scotland and that it should be based on a decentralised and locally empowered model. However, the River Tweed already has such a system which works well and addresses the legal and administrative requirements of cross-border fisheries management.

“Together with biological support from the Tweed Foundation, the RTC is self-funding and does not receive financial support from central government either in Scotland or England.

“Set up more than 200 years ago, it is both democratic and accountable, its 81 commissioners comprising 43 appointed by Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council, including representatives of local angling clubs, and a minority, 38, appointed by salmon fishery proprietors.

“Tweed enjoys an international reputation for being well managed and its fisheries contribute £18million to the local economy, supporting the equivalent of 480 full-time jobs.

“Therefore, the RTC does not consider it appropriate for the Tweed to be constituted as part of the new system which the Scottish Government has proposed.”

The consultation ends on August 7.