Sweet Rockall 136

A recurring row has broken out over the island of Rockall, an uninhabited rock in the Atlantic whose ownership is disputed between the UK and Ireland. The Scottish government, under whose jurisdiction Rockall falls, has banned Irish vessels which traditionally fish there from doing so.

This is an article in the Derry Journal today:

Donegal T.D. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has claimed the Greencastle fishing fleet could be losing up to 30 per cent of its income due to the British blockade of its traditional Rockall fishing grounds.

He branded Britain’s refusal to allow Inishowen fishers access to the seas around the rock – a fertile ground for squid and fish species, particularly haddock, sole and monkfish – ‘absolute nonsense’.

Speaking in Dáil Éireann prior to the St. Patrick’s week recess, Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “This is outrageous. There is no basis in international law for putting a nautical mile limit around an uninhabited rock. There is no basis for this under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“It is absolute nonsense. How on earth is the Government tolerating this? How is it not being taken to international arbitration? Why did the Government sign off on the Maritime Jurisdiction Act on access for the British Government to and control of the area at a time when it is negotiating to reinstate our traditional fishing grounds to our fishermen? Who on earth would tolerate that?

“We talk about Brexit and the attitude of the Tories. They have arbitrarily kicked Irish fishermen out of our traditional fishing grounds, with no international legal basis for doing so.”

Martin Heydon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, replied: “As Taoiseach, the Minister [current Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs] Deputy [Micheál] Martin, last discussed the matter of Rockall with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the end of last year.

“It was agreed to prioritise this matter and continue to work together to seek to resolve the outstanding issues.

“As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney met his Scottish counterpart, the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson, to discuss the issue.

“They agreed to continue to prioritise this matter and work together to seek to resolve outstanding issues. Working together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are active discussions between the Irish and Scottish side exploring all options. Further discussions at political and official level are planned over the coming period.”

British claims to ownership of the uninhabited rock, which is located 430 kilometres from Bloody Foreland and 461.5 kilometres from Ardnamurchan, the nearest point on the Scottish mainland, have never been recognised.

Deputy Heydon explained that ‘Ireland has never made any claims to, nor has Ireland ever recognised UK sovereignty claims over, Rockall’ and that ‘accordingly, it has not recognised a 12 nautical mile territorial sea around it’.

However, under the terms of the Brexit Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK, Donegal fishers have not been granted licences to fish within the 12 mile limit.

“Approximately 25 Irish vessels have fished in the waters around Rockall during the spring and summer months in recent years.

“Under the EU-UK TCA EU vessels must be licensed by the UK authorities. Since January 1, 2021 the licences issued by the UK to EU vessels, where granted, expressly preclude access to the 12 nautical mile zone around Rockall,” he said.

Britain’s claims are seemingly based on the fact the rock is located 301.3 kilometres west of the uninhabited island of Soay in the Outer Hebrides. It is 423 kilometres west of Tory.

Technically, I am afraid the Irish fishermen are wrong. As an uninhabited rock, Rockall cannot generate an exclusive economic zone of 200 miles for fisheries. But it can generate a 12 mile territorial sea, within which fisheries can be controlled by the sovereign state.

The point is that the sovereignty is disputed by the UK and Ireland. Who owns a barren piece of rock is not easy to establish, especially as the UK and Ireland were one state when sovereignty was first formally asserted.

In these circumstances, to ban Irish vessels from traditional grounds is peculiarly provocative by the Scottish government. It is very strange behaviour when they are supposed to be courting EU countries to support Scottish Independence.

I am told by a Scottish Government source it is driven by the Scottish Greens on conservation grounds, though the notion that banning strictly controlled fishing from one 24 mile diameter circle in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean makes any difference is frankly crazy.

I would hope that an Independent Scotland would abandon the UK’s obsession with collecting territories, and agree joint sovereignty with Ireland over Rockall. There is an important point here that is not generally understood.

Sovereignty over Rockall does not affect anything except the 12 miles territorial sea. It has no impact at all on the UK/Irish exclusive economic zone or continental shelf boundaries.

Rockall is not used at all as a base point or reference point in either of those boundaries. I know because I was part of the team that negotiated them, as Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The exclusion of Rockall was perfectly deliberate on both sides, because the need to agree the boundary, especially the continental shelf boundary for oil and gas, was urgent as otherwise exploration and development might be impeded. Importing a territorial dispute into the negotiations would have been unhelpful to all concerned.

So the Rockall dispute is an utterly pointless dispute, over national pride and a few haddock close to the rock. It saddens me to see the Scottish government acting as daftly jingoistic towards Dublin as their London counterparts.


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136 thoughts on “Sweet Rockall

  • ET

    I have an idea. Do you think the dive team responsible for blowing up the Nord Stream pipe lines could be hired and tasked with placing shaped charges of C4 to blow enough of Rockall away that none of it would be above sea level anymore? Problem solved and the lads would have some more work to do. Have to be stealthy, of course. And there wouldn’t be a need for decompression chambers as they wouldn’t have to dive so deep maybe.

    Rockall’s bird population might not be so pleased but they can’t vote.

  • Funn3r

    Actually I make Rockall to be 299.92 kilometers west of the UK. Don’t know if being the other side of the 300km line makes any difference. I dislike fishing so I’m on the side of the UK establishment for once.

    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      Rockall is closer to Britain than it is to any other country. That’s what makes it British. It’s Britishness is reaffirmed every year by landing a British crew on the rock every year.

      The Faroese and the Danes and the Irish all covet the wretched thing, but it is British.

      • Stevie Boy

        “Rockall is closer to Britain than it is to any other country. That’s what makes it British. ”
        Hmm, I guess that makes Gibraltar Spanish and the Falklands Argentinian ?

        • Wullie B

          It mentions at the end of the article that its closest position to the UK is 300 ish KM from the uninhabited island of Soay, Soay is part of the St Kilda archipelago and only 500 meters from the inhabited island of Hirta, where Village Bay has a permanent population

        • Ebenezer Scroggie


          Democracy makes Gibraltar British, just like democracy reaffirmed Scotland as being British in the once in a lifetime Referendum.

          Similarly, the Falklands are British, by popular vote, and are not the malvinas.

          Democracy can be a bitch.

          • Squeeth

            Funny how votes inside rigged boundaries are immemorial reflections of democracy. ;o)

          • Paul Torgerson

            Following the occupation of Gibraltar in 1704, nearly the entire population of 4000 left or were evacuated. It is very convenient to cite democracy, when the original inhabitants have been forced out. The British gained Gibraltar as the spoils of the War of Spanish Succession and are thus occupying Spanish sovereign territory. The Falklands on the other hand were previously uninhabited before the Europeans arrived in the mid 18th Century. The French, British and Spaniards set up colonies or small garrisons on the Falkland islands, but all were abandoned, the Spanish were the last to leave was in 1811, which is where the Argentinian claim comes from, whilst the British had previously claimed the islands in the name of George 3rd before they abandoned the place. In 1823, the Argentinians granted Luis Vermet fishing rights and the rights to exploit feral cattle on the Falkland. He subsequently established a small colony. The British arrived again in 1832 and have been there since….so it depends whose claim you recognise in the late 18th century and in this case it is better left to democracy. And in northern island the Ulster plantations in Northern Ireland displaced the indigenous population from the 17th century onwards which has resulted in the modern day domination by Unionists in the North….and ultimately the political divisions there…

          • Bayard

            “Funny how votes inside rigged boundaries are immemorial reflections of democracy. ;o)”

            Only when they give the right answer. Otherwise they are “rigged” and can safely be ignored.

        • Ebenezer Scroggie


          Gibraltar and the Falklands are British, not Scottish.

          The people voted on the matter, just as we did in Scotland in the “once in a lifetime” Referendum.

  • Giyane

    Rockall is a mountain on a continental platform that is temporarily covered by sea. I remember the Bishop of Hereford standing on top of the Malvern Hills talking of a Worcester side and a Hereford side. Do the same with Rockall , a British side and an Irish side. They could have done that with the Falklands too.

    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      If the Argentine military dictatorship hadn’t invaded the Falklands and if they’d played a good hand of cards at the diplomatic level, those islands would have been Argentine by now.

      The Coalite Company, which owned the best 75% of the land, would have been financially compensated of course and the sheep people would have been given very generous resettlement packages and the islanders, both old and new, would been even more prosperous than they are now because of free trade with the mainland.

      Rockall is quite different because it is comprehensively uninhabitable.

  • Ebenezer Scroggie

    It’s yet another example of overreach by the SNumPtie gumment.

    We got here by giving far too many devolved powers to the pygmy parliament. We should have stayed with the original idea which was to have a wee talking shop in the atrium of the former Royal High School and give them a budget equivalent to a mid-sized county.

    They’re just a bunch of overpaid and incompetent nincompoops who’d be out of their depth in a carpark puddle.

    Starting what amounts to a ‘cod war’ with Ireland is just idiotic.

    • terence callachan

      Westminster are the real idiots , I suspect Scottish government are merely adhering to Brexit legislation devised with the EU

  • glenn_nl

    I wonder what the EU will make of all this?

    They don’t generally take kindly to having their members pushed around by more powerful non-EU states.

    • iain

      Do not cross the line with the EU, and especially not with its head boy Germany. The Yanks, Brits & Norwegians found out the hard way. You simply do not mess with these people.

      • glenn_nl

        No, definitely _more_ powerful. A country doesn’t tend to be pushed around by a less powerful country, after all. And I would say that the UK has still a much greater military force than Ireland’s.

  • Wally Jumblatt

    so the diplomats left unfinished business years ago, and never re-addressed it cos one side or the other – if not both – would have been offended.
    Plus ça change.

  • dcomerf

    It’s fine to ban fishing (and I think there is evidence to suggest that banning exploitation of “one 24 mile diameter circle in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean” is valuable because the safe haven produced spawns into the rest) so long as both Irish and Scottish/UK fishing is banned. Are the Irish claiming they are being excluded when Scottish/UK are allowed?

  • Barry R

    I am a little disappointed by the lack of commentary on the current election Craig.

    Will you be able to share your opinion after the vote is closed?

  • nevermind

    A flotilla of Chinese navy ships mirroring western activities in Taiwan’s waters could then give rise to sit down and talk about it, come to a conclusion and partition fishing rights by quartering the waters around it and decide to rotate them on a yearly basis until all the fish has been depleted a la New Foundland.

    Then we can leave it alone until it recovers, if it recovers.
    My sincere thanks to the Chinese brokerage of diplomatic exchange and dialogue betweeen Iran and Saudi Arabia.
    whether this will make for peace in Yemen and less profits for our arms industry is to be seen. Who knows how long it will take before Bibi recovers from this simple peaceful solution.
    Rumours have it that he was seen running through Tel Aviv naked with foam coming from his mouth.

  • Lapsed Agnostic

    Re: ‘Who owns a barren piece of rock is not easy to establish, especially as the UK and Ireland were one state when sovereignty was first formally asserted.’

    According to the Beeb, Rockall was annexed by the British as late as 18th September 1955. It was the final territorial acquisition of the British Empire. Though the Republic of Ireland doesn’t recognise this, it has never made a claim to it.


    • Sam

      Thanks for the link! From a blurb on that BBC page:

      “In 1972 the Isle of Rockall Act was passed, which made the rock officially part of Inverness-shire, Scotland.”

      However, underneath it, it mentions the dispute over mining and extraction.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Thanks for your reply Sam. Yes, the continental shelf around Rockall that is currently in the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone is also claimed by Ireland, Denmark (on behalf of the Faroes) & Iceland. I would imagine all of them are after potential oil rights, but if the transition to electric vehicles in the economically developed world proceeds roughly as planned in the coming decades, any fields would surely have to be both massive and relatively problem-free to be economically viable – and then there’s the Just Stop Oil people, and their ilk in other countries, to think about. So I reckon it’s largely a case of bald men fighting over a comb.

        • Bayard

          “So I reckon it’s largely a case of bald men fighting over a comb.”

          Was that not said about the Falklands War? Given your remarks about the oil revenue, it does seem to have turned out to be a very valuable comb indeed.

    • SleepingDog

      @Lapsed Agnostic, unless the BBC has a crystal ball they’re particularly impressed with, I don’t see where their claim of ‘final’ territorial acquisition comes from. The Empire hasn’t stopped invading yet.

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Thanks for your reply SleepingDog. Britain doesn’t really have an empire any more – unless you count the 14 British Overseas Territories (only 10 of which have permanent, non-military populations) with a total population of around 270,000 subjugated souls, slaving away in the financial services industries. These days we only invade other countries at the behest of the US.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply, SD. I was being slightly facetious in my remark about colonised peoples slaving away in financial services, but nevertheless, the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands etc do derive a lot of their GDP from it, and can be legitimately described as tax havens. A nation whose remaining colonies constitute less than 0.5% of its population can hardly be described as an empire though.

            The British Overseas Territories have a large amount of autonomy and, as far as I’m aware, don’t have to pay any taxes to the mother country, even though it provides for their defence. As far as I know, this will also be the case in the Falkland Islands when the Sealion field comes fully on stream and is producing about 35 barrels of oil per day per capita, which should result in a tax take of $300-$800 (depending on the oil price) per day per islander. The Falklands’ current nominal GDP per capita is around $65,000 – compared to the UK’s $45,000 – but when oil production gets fully under way, if the oil price stays around $80 per barrel, it will be around $500,000, by far the highest of any country or territory in the world.

        • SleepingDog

          @Ebenezer Scroggie, I think the British Empire is best viewed as a subordinate, client empire to the USAmerican one. Its foreign policy is largely slaved, but retains a royalist character which sometimes conflicts, at least in style.

  • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

    In this 6 min video from 2014 Craig Murray explains how a certain other swathe of Scottish sea was “annexed by the British” (coincidentally on the very eve of the implementation of Scottish devolution):

    The Stolen Seas (PeopleOfScotland, 8 Sep 2014) – YouTube, 6m 1s

    Further to the foregoing, Craig has this 2017 article (with a map which happens to nicely show the location of Rockall):


    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      It is exceptionally rare for Craig Murray to talk bollocks, but on the matter of the Eastward lateral line he is doing exactly that.

      In a fantasy world of Scotland being amputated from the UK contrary to the democratically expressed wishes of we, the people of Scotland in the “once in a lifetime” Referendum, the equidistant median line would be drawn by geodesy/hydrography and expressed in a negotiated number of specifically denoted datum points, just as exists between the UK/Norway boundary in the North Sea.

      Simplistic ‘boundaries’ between counties within the UK have no relevance in the matter of international maritime limits.

      • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

        You obfuscate Craig’s view. Here for example is an extract from what he wrote in the ‘TECHNICAL EXPLANATION’ linked to above —

        “I am a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and have actually negotiated maritime boundaries for the UK in real life. These things are very much a negotiation, which infuriates the academics who like to believe they are issues of pure geometry.

        “There are two other points worth considering:

        “1) The UK has never claimed international boundaries are a matter of pure geometry. Its boundaries are always officially characterised as a modified median line, to acknowledge the give and take of negotiation.

        “2) The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not mandate that the boundary has to be a median line. Other factors may be taken into account including historical jurisdiction. This is a major further argument in Scotland’s favour.”

        • Ebenezer Scroggie

          The median line(s) in the North Sea have always been settled by negotiations of hydrographers and geodesists.

          They do so on the basis of the lowest astronomical tide line of the respective coastlines.

          Due to the fractal nature of coastlines, they negotiate proximal datum points along that line, something like 60 or 120 miles or so, and that becomes the agreed division, even if it straddles very valuable resources such as oil and gas.

          Those median lines never go as straight lines of Latitude or Longitude.

      • nevermind

        In your world, Ebenezer, we the people would agree by duffing your cap to midnight secret changes to the border?
        what a load of manure is that, when economically important resources are pocketed by two persons, rather than discussed in one or other Parliament ?
        only colonizing Unionist could come up with such pap.

          • Republicofscotland

            The ToU is an international treaty between two sovereign nations and treaties can be dissolved, the days of this rancid union are numbered thank goodness.

            Oh and there is a border, why do you think in 1999 the Westminster government, along with the queen’s consent, moved it to allow England to steal 6,000 sq miles of the North sea, now when you look out at the North sea at Carnoustie (well within Scotland’s borders) you are looking at stolen waters that are now English.


          • terence callachan

            Ebenezer, remember: separate fact from your opinion. You’re at it again – the United Kingdom is exactly that: a kingdom that was United but two countries still exist. Scotland is a country and England is a country. United Kingdom is not a country; it is a place, more than one country – just like the eu is not a country. Gee, get wise.

          • nevermind

            You did – 3 million others did not, trust me, I was astonished and seething for not having been allowed to vote on my grandchildren’s future. It was a jingoistic slugfest, not a referendum? You have been a colony since 1707, and happy to live with it.

          • Bayard

            “– the United Kingdom is exactly that: a kingdom that was United but two countries still exist. Scotland is a country and England is a country.”

            The full title of the United Kingdom is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. Before Irish independence, it was “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”. The union of the crowns of Scotland and England produced Great Britain, not the United Kingdom.

        • Ebenezer Scroggie

          The “once in a lifetime” Referendum was not an “opinion” poll. It was a legally binding vote of the people of Scotland, by the people, for the people.

          If the vote had gone bad, we’d have been cast adrift in the cold waters of the North Atlantic like a banana republic wi’ nae bananas. Rockall, in shellsuits and cheap Chinese trainers and IQ-reducers worn back to front as headwear.

          • Republicofscotland

            More utter nonsense.

            There was no “once in a life time referendum” Salmond and Sturgeon might have said it but it wasn’t part of the Edinburgh Agreement.

            The English government doesn’t decide when Scots want to leave the union, we don’t need Number Ten’s permission to dissolve the union, all we need is majority of MSPs or MPs elected via the ballot box to declare independence.

          • Bayard

            “There was no “once in a life time referendum” ”

            There was if you are a Unionist, otherwise not.

    • Ian Smith

      If you looked east from Carnoustie, you would have to be standing on top of a 50,000ft ladder to be able to see where the sea was deemed English.

  • Wullie B

    Just to add Craig, because St Kilda is lived in, Rockall falls into the jurisdiction of Western Isles Council due to its location and the closest permanent inhabited area is Hirta, which is 500 meters from the island of Soay, mentioned at end of the article, but if you think that a 24-mile circle is a small area, Rockall because of the way the sea bed is, is a great area for fishing, have been there many times and seen hauls of fish that would fill smaller boats holds up, 2-300 boxes of haddock, cod, megrim, monkfish, tusk, and squid, all pretty high-value fish, and for a fishing boat, getting more fish in a shorter time especially when the price of fuel has been extortionate can make all the difference between getting pay and not making anything regardless of how hard you have worked or how little sleep you have had.
    I feel for the Irish fishermen but on the other side of the coin, the Irish Navy has arrested Ulster boats for straying into the 12-mile limit of the Republic, remember Charlie MacBride on the Trawlermen TV show almost lost his trawler because of that reason so both nations are guilty, but the biggest draw of who controls Rockall, controls the future access of oil in the area, and its a huge untapped field that has been surveyed, making the Forties field looking minuscule in comparison

    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      Fishing for megrim is horribly destructive of the seabed ecoculture and ought to be banned anywhere within 200 miles of the UK or anywhere else.

      Anyway, it’s crap eating food for yoomans.

      • Wullie B

        megrim is actually quite a nice fish to eat, Spaniards love it and pay top dollar, its no more destructive than fishing for haddock or monk, in fact one vessel I have worked on actively targeted Megrim to send away fishing the Rockall mounds, and we would put ashore fish that was unbruised, that is a hard thing to do,
        Some of the worst fishing methods used are by foreign vessels, netting and long lining, Spanish boats going out loaded with monofilament nets coming back with none, the old netting dumped at sea, gill netting doesn’t damage the sea bed but when the nets are dumped, they catch all sorts of fish that are effectively drowned.

        • Ebenezer Scroggie

          I disagree with you, Wullie, about long-lining.

          It’s a very clean way to catch fish. Also, the fishmeat is uncontaminated by nasty hormones of fish dying a prolonged and cruel death as happens in bottom-trawling.

          • Wullie B

            Its not the catching method that is the problem, it is the ghost fishing of gear being dumped over the side at the end of each trip
            We have taken bins of discarded fishing gear into Scrabster and Ullapool to be disposed of after catching it in trawl nets, often having to take rotting dead good sized fish from nets and lines

        • Ebenezer Scroggie

          Wullie Be,

          I will bicker with you about Longlining.

          Longliners never willingly abandon their gear. That just does not happen. On the rare occasions when the line breaks, it does no environmental damage.

          You are, uncharacteristically, talking shite.

          • Wullie B

            I know what I have seen with my own eyes, long liners when fishing will spend days looking for lost gear if it happens during fishing trips, re breaks, esp Norwegians and Faroese, other nations not so much, try visiting up by the wind sock when the eastern European boats have been visiting, one to we picked up discarded gear,5k+ hooks, no headlines to pick up in between shots to get gear when an end snaps, one big ball that was too big to go in the under deck fish pond, so had to be stowed forward by sweepline winches but I will bow to your obvious knowledge on fishing practices, oh and no long line boats had been in the area for two or three months. fish frames like hake, tusk, ling tangled up in the mess

  • Crispa

    Interesting in the context of maritime geography is the fuss being made by America, recently in a state of hysteria over Chinese weather balloons, over its drone flying thousands of miles from home downed by the Russians just 60 kilometres from Crimea. At least Ireland and Scotland are relatively close to each other to make Rockall a dispute between neighbours. I haven’t come across one media report that is based on the premise of “what the f*** was a USA drone doing in the Black Sea?”

    • John Main

      The drone was flying over international waters.

      The “weather balloons” were over the land masses of Canada, the USA, etc. etc.

      Not at all difficult to see and understand the difference.

      If you believe you have a valid point about the drone, would you support the Royal Navy sinking the next Russian naval vessel to traverse the North Sea or Channel?

      Something like “what the f*** was a Russian warship doing in the Channel?”

      • glenn_nl

        So if Russian drones were flying just off the New York coast, Americans should have no problem with that, right? And if the Yanks shot it down, you’d be the first to say that the Russians had every right to be aggrieved?

        Along similar lines, I suppose the world’s press would be waiting for Russia’s pronouncements on American military aggression each time it occurred. Russia would have been weighing in on America’s attacks on literally dozens of countries, for decades, and we would automatically be reporting this as the received wisdom on the matter every time.

        Even now, I am puzzled why America has to take the lead about what should or should not be considered when it comes to talks on resolving the issues (or not, as it might be). Why don’t we have China’s take, or that of India, Brazil, let alone an African country?

        Why do we hear what Washington has to say before our own government? A cynic might conclude our government has to wait to get their own opinion from Washington!

        • John Main

          I guess I lost you at “flying over international waters”.

          Don’t beat yourself up over it.

          You lost me, and most other adults in the room, at “America’s attacks on literally dozens of countries, for decades”.

          • glenn_nl

            You might have become lost due to your ignorance, whether willful, feigned or otherwise I couldn’t say.

            But don’t dare presume to speak on behalf of anyone else commenting here, less still ‘most’ of them. Commentators on this blog do actually have a very good idea of what’s going on, your act of baffled disbelief notwithstanding.

            Your failure to step up to the task of actually addressing any point is noted.

          • terence callachan

            So John main , do you count the China sea as international waters and the Black Sea as international waters ? I guess you do so why not the Atlantic or the pacific would you be okay with Russian war ships off the coast of New York and Chinese aircraft carriers off the coast of california

          • Johnny Conspiranoid

            “You lost me, and most other adults in the room, at “America’s attacks on literally dozens of countries, for decades”.”

            Is that not true then?

        • terence callachan

          Well said glen _ nl……

          Also …imagine Scotland made a deal with China to put Chinese missiles on the border of Scotland and England , facing London , would England send troops into Scotland ? You bet they would

          • John Main

            In the event your imaginary scenario came about, I imagine most Scots would be pleading for help from England to throw the Chinese in the sea.

            It says something for your ability to self-id as a pretzel that you are able to pose your scenario in the first place.

          • pretzelattack

            @john main

            you mean like the Crimeans pled for help from Russia to save them from the Ukrainian nazis the US installed in power?

          • glenn_nl

            Since John’s imagination is so poor, let’s take a real world example.

            What happened when a tiny nation 90 miles off Florida, beset by American aggression, allowed the Soviets to station weapons there?

            Why, the Yanks were prepared to end the world with a nuclear exchange, unless Russia backed off.

            But the Yanks can surround Russia and China with hostile forces and weapons, patrol their seas with gunboats, carry out “military exercises” there, and that’s obviously just fine.

      • Whatever

        The Russians claim it didn’t have a transponder on and I suspect it wasn’t responding to the escorting jets.
        Planes get escorted by fighter jets into the UK all the time if they lose radio contact.

        Also remember the Moskva was sunk in the black sea not that long ago – and while Reaper was unlikely to attack directly (I hope!) – it may well have been spotting for the Ukrainians to attack the Russian fleet.

        Bottom line it’s hard to argue it was just there on a holiday.

        • Fat Jon

          And from what I gather from the Daily Mail website, the US military have released video footage of the whole drone v Russian jets event.

          Which means that not only was a US drone flying around over international waters, apparently aimlessly wasting precious fuel, but it was accompanied by another drone carrying a camera filming this aimless and wasteful mission.

          The logical conclusion is that the US were deliberately taunting the Russian airforce, and filming for purely propaganda purposes. It is childish and pathetic, but no more than I would expect from them.

      • Tatyana

        Unlike balloons, the Reaper drone can carry up to 1,700 kilograms of cargo. Although it does not have a pilot, its route is manageable. It can make 250 km per hour and more, and it can carry Hellfire missiles, Paveway and JDAM bombs.
        So no, it’s not the same as a windswept balloon.

        The thing the Pentagon is silent about is that the drone had its transponder turned off, and that it was flying in an airspace reserved for the special military operation. Although I expect disagreement on whether the airspace over those waters is international, as was the case with the British Defender sailing past the Crimea.

        The balloon may well be Illinois hobby club’s balloon

        • John Main

          You are right. The Reaper drone was not the same as a windswept balloon.

          The drone was over international waters.

          The balloon(s) was/were over the USA and Canada.

          As is usually the case with these arguments, the point has swiftly been morphed into something else in order to deliberately muddy the waters.

          • Tatyana

            Shoigu spoke to Lloyd Austin
            “the incident was caused by the U.S. actions of non-compliance with the flight restriction zone declared by the Russian Federation, established in connection with the special military operation, as well as increased reconnaissance activities against the interests of the Russian Federation.”

            Drones, they fly, they cannot sail. That’s why international waters don’t matter.

          • glenn_nl

            Also note how America collectively shit its pants over a balloon.

            Then cried like bitches about their drone.

            You’re right – hardly any fair comparison at all between the Yanks and the Russians!

          • Stevie Boy

            But these things are never simple or black and white … the Chinese weather balloon was over the USA and Canada for a relatively long time before it was shot down – over the ocean. So the logical inference is that the USA knew it was a weather balloon, they knew it was blown off course and they took considerable time to make the political decision to shoot it down. This was pure and simple needless political escalation, just as the drone episode was. The legal niceties are irrelevant, the fact is the USA is trying to start a hot war – that it wouldn’t win.

          • Dawg

            > Shoigu spoke to Lloyd Austin
            > “the incident was caused by the U.S. actions of non-compliance with the flight restriction zone declared by the Russian Federation, established in connection with the special military operation

            Yes, and Lloyd Austin responded by telling Sergei Shoigu to stuff his flight restriction zone right where the drones can’t fly!

            Daily Sabah: US tells Russia it’ll continue to fly wherever international law permits

            Maybe I could unilaterally declare my street a ‘no drive’ zone, then intercept and fine any cars that don’t comply …

          • Bayard

            “According to Pentagon, they themselves downed their drone”

            Except that, too, is probably a cover up. The early reports were that the drone went out of control and crashed, which seems likely to be because the operator was spooked by the Russian warplanes. This would correlate with US claims that the drone was “bullied”.

        • Courtenay Francis Raymond Barnett

          On a cost/benefit basis, it seems to me a horrendous loss to the US.

          I have heard at lowest an estimated $12 value placed on the balloon ranging upwards to say $2,500. Whatever -I know not.

          My point?

          It seems to me that the US fired two missiles before the second hit the balloon. So, the missile cost over $400,000 and so we must multiply by two. Thus the US finds sense in expending multiples more than the value of the balloon to bring it down.

          Why didn’t they just do it the traditional way – and stick a pin in it; pin valued at less than one cent at going rates.

          • Stevie Boy

            There’s more PR kudos in the ‘shock and awe’ approach taken by the U$A, it frightens the horses and boosts the MIC coffers. A little prick impresses no-one !

          • Bayard

            “Why didn’t they just do it the traditional way – and stick a pin in it; pin valued at less than one cent at going rates.”

            I did read that these balloons are filled with some sort of gel so that they don’t get shot down by “sportsmen”.

      • terence callachan

        John main, the drone wasn’t hit , the footage from the drone continued after the so called collision , believe me if that jet had hit the drone there would be nothing left of it…but you know that already don’t you

        • Pears Morgaine

          Watch all of the footage, the Su 17 clipped, or got clipped, by the drone’s propellor. The damage would’ve put the propeller out of balance and shaken the drone apart if the engine kept running.


          How can a country unilaterally claim an area of international airspace off limits to other users?

          • IMcK

            I suggest the video footage (BBC website) indicates the claim of clipping the prop is highly dubious. The prop appears to be turning at the same speed both before and after the claimed damage yet without any evidence of vibration. Unless they’d throttled it back in both conditions and don’t want to confuse us with too much info.

          • Tatyana

            “How can a country unilaterally claim”
            I suppose, smth like that:

            Shoigu: “Psst, guys, you’d better not fly there in that area, you might be shot down.”
            And the Pentagon is like: “What are you talking about! What happened?”
            And then the Russians: “You know, such a thing, when rockets fly everywhere and men with guns run around – it’s called war. So guys, I’ll tell you a secret, this shit has been going on there for a whole year. It’s amazing that you didn’t notice.”

          • Dawg

            > How can a country unilaterally claim an area of international airspace off limits to other users?

            It can’t. Declaring part of Ukraine off limits to Ukrainians is declaring war on Ukraine. Declaring part of international airspace off limits to international flights would be declaring war on the international community. If a vessel is thereby intercepted, the country who owns it would be justified in construing the interception as an act of war. That’s probably why the Russians went about it so gingerly, trying to damage the drone with fuel discharges rather than by a direct hit. But it looks like their no-contact ruse wasn’t entirely successful.

          • Frank

            “How can a country unilaterally claim an area of international airspace off limits to other users?”
            I suppose it’s a bit like when the UK declared a 230 mile exclusion zone around the Falklands.

          • Bayard

            “Maybe it isn’t clear but the image I posted shows the bent prop blade, the bent tip is clearly visible.”

            Oh, come on, that video wouldn’t convince a five-year-old. Firstly, unless that’s a scale model Russian aircraft, it was quite obviously nowhere near the drone and secondly there was that oh so convenient loss of transmission at the actual contact point. Yeah, right

          • Pears Morgaine

            Well it won’t convince you because you’re steadfastly refusing to see what’s in front of you. Perhaps you’d like to explain how the prop blade did get bent.

          • Bayard

            “Perhaps you’d like to explain how the prop blade did get bent.”

            Probably someone bent it with a hammer. There is no evidence whatsoever that the bent prop is the same prop seen earlier. The oh-so-convenient loss of transmission cuts both ways.

          • Pears Morgaine

            OK so a passing alien leant out of its UFO and hit it with a club hammer.

            The drone was sending data up to a satellite, the interposition of 20 odd tonnes of SU 27 would have been sufficient to block transmission.

          • Bayard

            “The drone was sending data up to a satellite, the interposition of 20 odd tonnes of SU 27 would have been sufficient to block transmission.”

            Your childish faith in the integrity of the video is quite touching, but it would be good if you could explain why the interposition of 20 odd tonnes of SU 27 wasn’t sufficient to block transmission on the first pass and why your mobile phone doesn’t cut out every time a bus goes past.

          • Bayard

            “You might find this forensic analysis of the video footage useful:”

            Not really, because it doesn’t even consider that i) either the whole video could have been faked or that, ii) at least the bit with the bent propellor could have been tacked on the end. In support of i) is the length of time taken to produce this footage which was available from day 1 and of ii) is the fact that even though the other aircraft is “very close”, the SU-27 is quite clearly nowhere near close enough to have hit the drone. How close it would have to be can be judged by the length of the propellor blades. Added to that is the fact that the drone with the bent propellor is gliding at a fairly shallow angle, which it certainly wouldn’t have been if it had been hit by another aircraft.

        • IMcK

          It does not appear to be disputed that drone was flying without a transponder. The purpose (or at least a major reason) of such devices is to identify aircraft locations (& tracks) and prevent collisions. I suggest that the Russians would be justified in downing the drone (irrespective of whether they did so) flying without a transponder and not responding. And that is without the fact the drone was flying in a identified zone of war and the realistic consideration the drone could have been targetting Russia in an act of war.

          • John Main

            “the drone was flying in a identified zone of war and the realistic consideration the drone could have been targetting Russia in an act of war”

            So that’s all right then?

            Get in touch with the peeps in The Hague War Crimes dept and tell them you are retrospectively authorising the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

            The identical justifications apply.

          • Goose

            The US have openly provided Ukraine with M142 HIMARS, capable of hitting targets in Crimea. They are also openly cooperating with Ukraine on deployment of said systems and targeting prioritisation – providing the all important real time updates for GPS coordinates.

            The idea they are just neutral observers to this conflict, who just happen, by chance, to be in this international airspace, is absurd. The US would behave exactly as Russia have done in a similar situation, if not more aggressively, were they conducting a military operation.

          • David

            IMcK – The Russians fly manned aircraft all over UK and Irish airspace with their transponders turned off nearly every day, hence the RAF intercepts. The RAF intercepts with their transponders on so that air traffic control can ensure that no air to air collision occurs. Civilian ATC doesn’t have the kind of radar that can track a transponder less aircraft. So would we be justified in shooting down the “bears” and “TU” typed aircraft as its fundamentally the same issue.

            The video released does appear to show pretty reckless flying by the Russian pilots and spraying it with highly flammable jet fuel is an aggressive act. The Russians are well renowned for unsafe intercepts generally. Now we all know what the reaper was doing there, spying on Russian activities to inform Ukraine, which some may say justifies the action, but then again the Russian aircraft in UK airspace are doing exactly the same thing.

            I suspect that the US will now send escort fighters with their drones to stop it from happening again, like the RAF now have to do with Rivet joint after the Russians “accidentally” fired a missile at it.

          • Goose


            It’s not a comparable situation. The US have provided Ukraine with over $100bn in military assistance, plus training and invaluable intelligence with regards to targeting. They are fighting a proxy war using ‘expendable’ Ukrainian military personnel.
            For a hypothetical equivalent, say we were at war with France, and the Russians were assisting the French with military intelligence including targeting information. Do you seriously think we wouldn’t shoot down planes and drones gathering that reconnaissance intel?

        • Stevie Boy

          Sometimes to get people’s attention you have to give them a good slap.
          The U$A will now back off, a bit, job done.
          The ‘law’ is irrelevant because 1) The yanks don’t follow it, and 2) It’s a war zone.

          • Dawg

            Not much has changed. The incident happened on Tuesday – i.e. 3 days ago. Use the ‘Playback’ feature on the Flight Radar website to see the same lack of traffic over that area a week ago.

          • Dawg

            It means that neutral aircraft (especially those carrying civilian passengers) don’t feel safe anywhere near the Russian military (Flight MH17, anyone?).

            Russia’s actions were a violation of international law, regardless of whether it unilaterally posted a “Keep Out!” notice.

            Downing of US drone in Russian jet encounter prompts counterclaims of violations in the sky – an international law expert explores the arguments (The Conversation, 15/3/2023)
            “Under Article 87 of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas, the high seas – basically, waters that are not any country’s territorial sea or exclusive economic zone – are open to all states. And the right of a country to operate on the high seas includes the freedom of overflight. The convention also states that the freedoms “shall be exercised by all states with due regard for the interests of other states in their exercise of the freedom of the high seas. …
               Russia violated international law when it failed to act with “due regard” for the U.S. right to engage in freedom of overflight. In fact, based on the U.S. account, Russia directly interfered with that right. And it is presumably on this basis that the State Department spokesman called the drone’s downing a “brazen violation of international law.”
              Any Russian concerns that the U.S. drone may have been spying on its military operations would not alter this conclusion. Freedom of overflight in international airspace includes the act of monitoring activities inside another state’s territory, as long as the monitoring occurs from within international airspace. So it would not matter from the perspective of international law whether the United States was using the MQ-9 to spy on military activities inside Russia or Russian-controlled Crimea.
            Aircraft in conflict zones
            Russia appears to be taking the position that it was entitled to set up boundaries for its “special military operation” in Ukraine and that the United States disregarded those boundaries. Russia may be referring here to a “maritime exclusion zone” that Russia set up in February 2022 to prohibit navigation in the northwest portion of the Black Sea. …
              However, neutral ships and aircraft do not become lawful targets merely because they enter such zones. Russia would only have had a reasonable claim to use force against, or interfere with, the U.S. drone if it posed an imminent threat of an armed attack or was otherwise a legitimate military target during an armed conflict. For this to be the case, the U.S. drone would have had to be taking direct part in hostilities, and it is known that the MQ-9 was unarmed.”

          • Giyane


            It was not known that the drone was unarmed at the time. It was intercepted because the US were causing immediate danger to other aircraft by flying a drone without its transponder on in international airspace.

            End of.

      • Bayard

        “The drone was flying over international waters.”

        And just how did it get to those “international waters” from the USA? Over more international waters?

        “Something like “what the f*** was a Russian warship doing in the Channel?”

        Transiting national waters by agreement with the countries concerned, I expect. Are you really as stupid as you try to make out?

      • Bayard

        “The drone was flying over international waters.”

        That’s like the famous answer to the question, “Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?”
        I shall repeat the question for those hard of understanding, “what the f*** was a USA drone doing flying over international waters in the Black Sea?”

        • Tatyana

          All this talk about international spaces and rights is undoubtedly good, but I’m afraid that they only apply to vehicles with transponders turned on. Any other object qualifies as “unidentified”, and its mission as “unknown”. There’s a protocol on handling such situations, mostly I guess it involves an aircraft approaching and trying to identify and to communicate the object. I’ve no idea what went wrong, only I can guess that unmanned device cannot communicate.
          I think that since the dearest Dawg was able to review the recordings of the Flightradar for three days, then perhaps he could also provide the route of that downed Reaper? I mean, if its transponder was turned on, than Flightradar would inevitably record its route, right?

          Otherwise, an unidentified object on unknown mission is heading towards the Russian border passing through the military zone, and it turned to be US MQ-9 Reaper, able to carry 1700 kilo of TNT, or missiles, or bombs … I’m happy it was intercepted. What the Pentagon described as “unprofessional” behavior by Russian pilots, in fact, they should be grateful that the drone wasn’t shot down, but only pissed on.

          • Dawg

            Some essential info for you:

            Just a reminder that the downed UAV was a MQ-9 Reaper that generally does not fly with an active ADS-B transponder.
            — Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) March 17, 2023

          • Tatyana

            Thanks, Dawg, confirms my point and I think that’s what you should start with, right? Would save time.
            Maybe there are some military technology experts who could comment on why the US drone flies without transponders? Judging by the payload capacity, the drone could afford to have this on board.
            Or maybe there are experts who could clarify whether international law allows military drones to be launched without transponders into international space? If yes, then is it only for the USA or, any country can do this legally?

          • Dawg

            Drones are increasingly required to use transponders in national airspaces, but there is no such requirement in international airspace.

            When an unidentified aircraft is detected near a national border, it is perfectly legal to mobilise fighters to intercept and monitor it. Bringing down an unidentified aircraft engaged in lawful activities is not legal. Suspicion of an unlawful act is not enough. Surveillance is a lawful activity.

            For your information, Russia has quite a habit of flying military aircraft close to national airspace with the transponders turned off. When it happens near the UK borders, the MoD mobilises planes to monitor them, but not to engage in physical contact (solid or liquid) to their endangerment.

            To reiterate, Russia violated international law when it deliberately downed a drone belonging to the USA in international airspace.

          • Tatyana

            I see no problem. If the Pentagon shares your point of view, they may sue Russia 🙂
            By the way, the fallen drone remains the property of the US? Or is it now a sea treasure and can be taken by anyone who picks it up?

          • Dawg

            There’s an obvious problem with that course of action, Tatyana: Russia is unlikely to comply with a legal summons. It’s effectively an outlaw state already.

            However, there are other courses of action that the US may take until Russia provides reparations for the downed Reaper – for example, prohibiting Russian vessels from transiting US territorial waters. Other actions that violate Russian sovereignty, without breaching international law, would also be warranted in response. The US could impose further sanctions on Russian businesses, individuals or property.

            But of course the Russian leadership has bigger problems at the moment. An international arrest warrant has been issued for the Russian president, which understandably takes precedence. Putin’s jet-setting days are over: he risks arrest for war crimes if and when he finally ventures beyond his national borders.

          • Tatyana

            Dawg, Russia has given proper notice of the reservation of this airspace for the purposes of the military operation. You yourself said that the US deliberately chose to ignore this.
            You dismiss that Pentagon had a choice, when in fact it was up to them to heed the notice or ignore it. Thus, the launch of this military drone into this space, and the consequence, is the responsibility of the US.

            You want the situation to look like an unreasonable attack on an innocent passage in international waters. I disagree. Because of the object’s type (military), its mission (reconnaissance), its behavior (transponder off), its location (reserved area), its route (towards Russian border), and, intentionality of the action – all of the above just doesn’t fall within your definition.

            Still, I find your attempt charming.
            Imagining Lloyd Austin posing as a shrinking violet abused by a cruel villain, I can’t help but smile. Did I mention that I have a vivid imagination? I can imagine Mr. Austin sending his Reaper drone as a Little Red Riding Hood carrying a cake and a little pot of butter 🙂 Sooo cute! Thanks for that.

          • Dawg

            Tatyana, the US ignored the warning because it has no legal force. The alleged unilateral FRZ is like a bully claiming a section of a pub for his own use and telling people to keep out: if another customer wanders into that area and the bully intercepts them and knocks their drink over (or pisses on them, to borrow your metaphor), who is legally responsible for reparations? “It’s his fault, he knew the risks; he made me do it!” isn’t a valid defence for a misbehaving infant, never mind a grown-up country.

            I repeat: Russia bears responsibility for the illegal act of damaging an aircraft ostensibly engaged in a lawful activity. It is illegal to damage a non-combatant aircraft flying in international airspace, and a bully’s warning of ominous consequences doesn’t change that fact.

            Even in the event of hostility between the two nations, there would be no self-defence basis for damaging the drone under the jus ad bellum.

            If Russian authorities have proof that the drone was engaged in unlawful activity or an act of military aggression, they should produce it. Their evasive excuses and lack of evidence is telling.

            > Still, I find your attempt charming. …
            > Sooo cute! Thanks for that.

            I notice your crafty attempt to portray the explanation I offered you as some kind of naïve personal daydream, but in fact my exposition was well informed: I based it on a careful analysis by Michael Schmitt, Professor of International Law at Reading University (UK), which examines relevant legal statutes as well as possible justifications for the Russian actions.

            In The Russian Intercept of the U.S. Reaper and International Law, Schmitt concludes in summary: “It would follow that the United States is entitled to reparations for the loss of the Reaper and enjoys the right to take countermeasures to secure them. For practical reasons, however, this is an unlikely scenario. Instead, any responses are likely to lie in the realm of retorsion [sanctions].”

            You’re welcome to write to Prof. Schmitt and tell him you find his views “charming” and “cute” – provided you can substitute your own more studious, authoritative and well-referenced academic analysis of the situation and the applicable international laws. Alternatively, you can send a letter of correction to the editor using the link at the bottom of the article. Remember to include your full name and academic credentials (or rank and serial number, if relevant).

            In the meantime, here is some charming and cute music for you: “Look what you made me do!” by Taylor Swift.

        • John Main

          Beats me.

          I would think the positions of every Russian military asset for thousands of miles around the area will be known to the nearest foot in real time by satellite surveillance.

          Backed up by Ukrainian sympathisers in Crimea who will report daily on the movements of the Black Sea fleet.

          Maybes the drone was investigating questions you can’t answer via satellite. Radar coverage blind spots. Russian reaction times. Are the US subs in the area detectable? Do the Russians have the capability to shoot down a Reaper (first answer is no, but that could be a double bluff).

          Let’s hope every last scrap of info the drone got was uplinked in real time and is now in Kiev. This war is not going away until it is won.

          • Bayard

            You’re still giving the “breaststroke” answer. I shall ask the question again, ” “what the f*** was a USA, a country which is neither at war with Russia nor formally allied to Ukraine, doing flying a drone over international waters in the Black Sea, a body of water thousands of miles away from its borders?”

      • Jams O'Donnell

        “The drone was flying over international waters.” – with its transponder turned off – not a sign of a neutral, friendly approach. But US Empire apologists will have no problem with that, eh?

  • Whatever

    > I am told by a Scottish Government source it is driven by the Scottish Greens on conservation grounds, though the notion that banning strictly controlled fishing from one 24 mile diameter circle in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean makes any difference is frankly crazy.

    Perhaps not that crazy – I assume it’s part of a surrounding shallower shelf – and so may be a significant breeding ground – and while one single point isn’t going to make a difference, it is at least heading in the right direction ( where you might need many such zones dotted around ).

    Note if the sanctuary works – you end up with more fish in the surrounding area over time.

  • intp1


    The combined catch of mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting have exceeded sustainable levels by 34% during this period because some of the richest nations in the world have failed to agree to limit their catch quotas.
    The figures, analysed by the MSC, are based on new data released by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which provides scientific advice on sustainable catch levels.
    ICES found that the combined quotas of coastal nations for mackerel, herring and blue whiting for 2021 were again set above scientifically advised limits for the year — by 41%, 35% and 25% respectively.
    Ref. https://www.msc.org/media-centre/news-opinion/news/2021/10/01/rich-nations-continue-to-overexploit-north-east-atlantic-fish-stocks

    For the Northeast Atlantic, 51% of the stocks are still overfished. Although commercial stocks like plaice, sole and herring are in a healthy state after long term management measures have been implemented, vulnerable bycatch species like Sea Bass and turbot are still heavily overfished. A new balance in the ecosystem is required, where all species are fished at a sustainable level.
    Ref. https://our.fish/what-we-do/where-we-work/atlantic-north-sea/

    Greedy Fucking Humans will catch the last fish to make money.

    • intp1

      Marine reserves or sanctuaries, or ‘no-take’ areas have been shown to be very effective at improving fish mortality, increasing fish size, improving ecological diversity and allowing depleted populations to recover. Not just in the immediate sanctuary zone but by seeding the outlying areas as fish numbers leak from the sanctuary. Sea birds would also have a knock on benefit.
      79 different studies have shown this general correlation.
      ref. https://www.conservationevidence.com/actions/2682

  • Lorne

    Whilst I can see a well timed invented stooshie to drive a wedge between the Scots and Irish administrations, one thing I will say.
    Rockall, like Stac Lee Stan an Armin and Hirta archipelago are very very important in ecological terms , not only for the huge populations of Gannets , Fulmar and Puffins, but the rarer Leach’s Petrel and the seas surrounding these islands and stacs are the most intact marine ecology of the North Atlantic, once teeming with plankton and therfore many species of whale and dolphin and all the marine life some of it weird and wonderful.
    None of our natural world should be exploited for natural resources until they crash, nor be used for military bases or as political footballs.
    It is not an uninhabited rock but home for some of our fellow creatures and phytoplankton produce oxygen, like Amazonia they are being erased by human activity at the point of no return we are all gone and then who cares what man claims rights to exploit and kill?

  • Lorne

    The only fish the Scottish Greens will protect are the ones that are over six foot wearing a dress and lipstick and identifying as a Her-ring.