IT’S Scotland’s fish.

Strangely that slogan couldn’t match “It’s Scotland’s oil” as an economic and emotional argument for independence -- until now.

Thanks to the cross-border row brewing over Brexit, fishing and farming are fast becoming totemic symbols for Scottish home rule, even though they represent a small part of the economy and working population – farming produced just one per cent of GDP in 2016 -- and even though many fishermen voted for the Union and leaving the EU. But those loyalties could yet change thanks to Brexit and the greed of the Westminster government.

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Today, Scots Brexit Minister Mike Russell will meet his UK counterparts in Edinburgh to discuss the Brexit power grab being hatched by Westminster. In June, Theresa May confirmed that all powers controlled by Brussels will be transferred to Westminster when the UK leaves the European Union – including powers currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament like farming and fishing.

The Tories say “many” of these powers will then be transferred back to Scotland, but only after Westminster has created a single UK-wide system of subsidies, standards and regulations from which Scots will not be allowed to deviate. They call it a way to standardise and strengthen the internal market. We can call it what it is – a downright theft of powers.

It’s no exaggeration to say the mechanisms underpinning the Scottish Parliament will be rendered worthless if this fishing/farming power grab goes ahead.

Already we’ve discovered (as a by-product of the Gina Miller court case) that the Sewel mechanism that gave Holyrood its legislative dance space is wafty and insubstantial. Key devolved powers can be removed at the drop of a trade deal – truly Westminster giveth and Westminster taketh away.

But isn’t it important the whole UK sings from the same agricultural subsidy hymn sheet after Brexit?

Well here’s the thing.

If the advantages of chiming precisely with UK legislation look greater than the advantages of creating a bespoke set of Scottish regulations which map perfectly onto our fishing and farming industries – the Scottish Government will probably stick with the British system.

The same way Norway opts to abide by 98 per cent of EU regulations – not because Norway is run by Brussels but because it understands the value of collaboration in trade.

There is absolutely no need for Westminster to remove what it wants to control. If devolution means anything, UK politicians should understand that in a modern world, negotiation and compromise gets you where you want to go, not brute force. But then if British politicians understood that, we wouldn’t have been forced into a pointless Brexit referendum pursuing the illusion of “taking back control” in the first place.

So Mike Russell is absolutely right to observe that: “Where it is sensible or desirable to introduce a common UK framework to replace that provided by EU law, this must be achieved through agreement and negotiation.”

If it’s fair and beneficial for Scotland to chime with UK farm and fishing regulations post Brexit, we likely will. If it’s not, we likely won’t.

If David Mundell continues to insist Westminster must control everything that might conceivably affect its desperate quest for post-Brexit trade deals, then we know devolution is simply a hand-out from patricians who can easily change their minds -- and even more easily sell out Scottish interests.

Michael Gove’s trip to meet Danish fishermen last week was a bit of a give away. As predicted in this column in May, the British Government is now openly planning to trade access to Scottish waters for bigger baubles – like perhaps renewed passporting for the City of London. So even though fishermen voted Tory to get out of the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), they will soon be made to stand by and watch while Scottish waters are traded away -- again.

Of course, it’ll be hard for fishermen to change their minds – especially when a vote for Remain or independence still leaves them in the grips of the CFP, albeit with a more tenacious and local set of negotiators. But there’s an alternative that may yet come to pass – joining the “halfway house” of the EEA along with fishing giants Norway and Iceland.

Scotland’s preferred European destination as an independent state is still in the balance. Scotland’s client status within the UK is becoming clearer and harder to change with each passing day.

But there’s more.

Our attachment to farming and fishing communities goes deeper than power grabs and cash. It’s personal too.

Scots are distanced from the land and our own fishing heritage through a combination of early industrialisation, urbanisation, feudal land ownership and the demise of small fishing ports around our coasts.

But ironically, that distancing – that exile from nature and her bounty – has given an iconic status to the hardy few managing to make a living on the quayside and by the farm track.

We feel connected even if we have never spent a day at sea or a minute at the plough.

I remember childhood holidays making the long trek north from Belfast, via Stranraer to a village near Portsoy and then to Wick in Caithness for a month with our two sets of grandparents (the flummery of a holiday to more exotic airts was never contemplated) and one of the highlights was a trip to the fish mart, watching fishermen tread expertly on the edges of boxes containing small, shining multitudes of fish. In Wick, the annual gala week kicked off with the crowning of the Herring Queen. Not politically correct but never mocked in Wick, despite the slightly surreal-sounding title. Herring once made fortunes and livelihoods there, even though most money went into the pockets of southern traders who paid the men in stores which also happened to sell alcohol. Many fishermen became alcoholics, most of the cash never left the store and it was up to the women of Wick (and other coastal communities) to join the temperance movement and campaign against drink licences. Of course, that meant many men took the train to the godless neighbouring town of Thurso, whose Commercial Bar still claims to have the longest counter in Scotland (a heavily contested claim I’ll grant you).

Growing up, I read Neil Gunn’s Highland River and Silver Darlings – two fabulous books describing how crofters completely unaccustomed to the sea were unceremoniously cleared from inland Highland glens and forced to become fishermen overnight.

Some faced conscription, others died in the harsh adjustment to life away from the sheltered glen in a new landscape of cliff faces, sea stacks and storm-battered geos. On our annual trips north we always tried to stop at two beauty spots. One was Bad Bea, just north of Berriedale, where Caithness families were cleared to live on the exposed cliff tops and offered employment building substantial stone dykes to keep the Laird’s sheep safe from the precipitous drops. Needless to say, the locals lived on the cliff-facing side of the wall they had constructed. So many took to the sea. The Caithness coast is fringed with beautiful harbours, tucked away from the raging North Sea like little red sandstone pockets. One – at the foot of Whaligoe Steps – is nothing more than a tiny area of flat rocks with two iron rings bolted into the rock. The fish landed there was sorted into boxes, which the women carried on their heads as they climbed the 365 steps carved into the cliff-face before walking the 15 miles into Wick hoping other boats had not landed the same time pushing down prices.

And that’s just one wee part of a coastline, which – if laid flat -- would stretch round a third of the globe.

So even though I’ve never set foot in a trawler, fishing is a big part of my family and our national heritage. And though we are as estranged from our seas, lochs and rivers as we are from our land, there is still an emotional connection.

Marry that with a growing awareness of the importance of fish as a great, healthy food source and you have a totemic part of the Scottish community and economy. The health of these once thriving, self-reliant, tight-knit communities reflects the health of once thriving and self-reliant Scotland.

Struggling but surviving.

We can do so much more, controlling our own seas. And the battle for that begins today.