The REC Committee wants to know if the fish sector, including aquaculture, has had enough help during the lockdown. Photo: Mowi.

Holyrood probes lockdown impact on aquaculture

The impact of Covid-19 on the aquaculture and processing sectors is to be investigated by members of the Scottish Parliament.

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The sectors will be included in a look at how the pandemic has affected transport services and the rural economy.

Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee has issued a call for evidence on the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic.

Sufficient support?

Views are sought on the impact of the emergency and the implications for public transport of easing the lockdown over the coming weeks and months.

The committee will also explore how agriculture and fisheries – including fish farming and processing - have been affected by the crisis and whether these sectors have received sufficient support to deal with the unprecedented challenges caused by Covid-19.

Individuals, businesses and other stakeholders are being invited to highlight specific issues and questions they would wish to be considered by the committee.

Edward Mountain: Existing practices may need to change.

Significant challenges

REC Committee convener Edward Mountain, a Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said: “The economic effect of the emergency lockdown measures imposed to tackle the spread of the coronavirus has presented significant challenges for the farming, forestry and fishing industries.

“Remote communities which already suffer from poorer transport and digital infrastructure have been effectively cut off from their families and from accessing vital services. Significant adjustments will also be required across our public transport services as the lockdown is eased in the coming weeks and months and the safety of the travelling public is hugely important.

“The committee wants to hear about the experiences of individuals and businesses and whether they feel they have received the support they need to survive and recover from this crisis.

“We also want to learn about examples of good practice as we consider what lessons can be learned about the response to the pandemic and also how existing practices may need to change as we move forward.”

Evidence sessions

The committee has already taken evidence from Scottish Government transport secretary Michael Matheson and rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing on the impact of Covid-19 at a virtual meeting on May 13.

It plans further evidence sessions with ministers as the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic and the impacts on the rural economy develop.

In April the Scottish Government earmarked £3 million to fund hardship payments to trout farmers and shellfish growers whose markets have been decimated by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Processors and wild-caught

The move followed the announcement of the Scottish government’s £10m lifeline for seafood processors.

Financial help has also been offered to the wild-caught sector. The Sea Fisheries Hardship Fund for Vessels Over 12m offers grants of up to £21,370 depending on boat size, and up to £42,740 for businesses that operate more than one vessel, to cover recurring fixed costs.

The Sea Fisheries Hardship Fund for Vessels Under 12m offers an initial payment of 50% of two months’ average earnings for boat owners who have no other form of income, capped at a maximum of £27,000.