A Scottish salmon farm near Skye. Crown Estate Scotland, which leases sites to fish farmers on behalf of the Scottish Government, has created an aquaculture director's post for what it says is an important element of its business.

Scottish fish farming's landlord creates £100k aquaculture director role

Quango's executive will have responsibility for income generation of £10m-£20m per year

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Crown Estate Scotland, the Scottish Government quango that leases areas of the seabed to salmonid farmers, has created a new director-level post for aquaculture.

The full-time role will pay around £100,000 a year.

“The Director of Aquaculture and Ecosystem Services will have responsibility for capital expenditure up to £1 million per annum, revenue expenditure up to £1 million p/a, and income generation of between £10-£20mill p/a,” an advertisement for the post states.

“The aquaculture portfolio represents an important element of the Crown Estate Scotland business, and it is expected to evolve and change in the decades ahead, alongside new opportunities in the marine environment associated with ecosystem services, natural capital, and the bioeconomy. As part of our efforts to respond to the climate and biodiversity crisis and to support a just transition, advancing innovation in the marine environment will also become increasingly important as we move towards 2050.”

The aquaculture portfolio represents an important element of the Crown Estate Scotland business, and it is expected to evolve and change in the decades ahead

Advert for Crown Estate Scotland aquaculture director

Executive recruitment agency FWB Park Brown has been hired to find the best candidate.

The new director will be expected to help Crown Estate Scotland support the growth of sustainable business and industry in Scotland’s seas and coasts and promote sustainable ways of producing food and other marine products and services.

The director will also be asked to help the quango make places better for those who visit, live on and work on the Scottish Crown Estate, and create opportunities for people to benefit from the property – including buildings, land, coastline and seabed – that form the Scottish Crown Estate.

Government experience

The job advert says direct experience of local government or central government business case process in relation to investment projects is highly desirable.

In 2022, Crown Estate Scotland introduced a new way of calculating the rent for fish farm sites that effectively raised the rent by 95%, with changes taking effect in January 2023.

Before the change, fish farm site rents in Scotland were based on the volume of fish produced, with the 2022 rate being £27.50 per tonne of fish sellable. The new scheme bases the rent on overall market value produced by a site, including non-productive market leases such as nursery sites or those being fallowed for a longer than normal period.

Crown Estate Scotland (CES) also scrapped the Outer Islands discount, which gave a 10% reduction in rents. It was in place because of the noticeable cost of transporting fish from outer islands to market (Shetland to Aberdeen for example), with the rent reduction helping offset that disadvantage against the rest of Scotland.

'Unjustified' rent rise

At the time that the rent rise was announced Tavish Scott, chief executive of sector trade body Salmon Scotland, condemned it as an “arbitrary and totally unjustified decision”, adding: “CES presumably now see salmon like offshore wind – a cash cow to be exploited.”

He added: “Scotland’s salmon farmers would be more likely to accept such a steep increase if they could see the benefit in terms of local investment of these charges. But, despite requests, CES have failed to give any indication as to how – or even if – this extra money will actually be used to help local people in the areas where it is raised.”

Salmon Scotland continues to campaign for rent paid by the salmon sector to be ringfenced and used to address the crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing in areas where fish farming is carried out.

£40m for coastal communities

A spokesperson for Crown Estate Scotland said: “The seabed is a shared, public space and, like many multi-national businesses, salmon farmers pay to use it for their commercial purposes. Crown Estate Scotland then passes profits to the Scottish Government and Ministers decide how that money is used. 

"Since 2017, around £40m of Crown Estate Scotland profits have been passed by Scottish Government to coastal local authorities to support community-led initiatives, economic regeneration and job creation, flood protection, environmental projects, and more. 

"This funding is in addition to money distributed directly by Crown Estate Scotland to people and communities to help with a range of projects and initiatives, which in the past three years has included support for affordable rented housing for older people in Orkney, low-cost housing for health and social care workers in Arran, and the development of six fuel-efficient affordable homes in Skye.”