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Scottish Sea Farms to repay furlough cash 'to help country's recovery'

Scottish Sea Farms managing director Jim Gallagher, left, at the company’s Westerbister farm, Orkney. Photo: ©SSF.
Scottish Sea Farms managing director Jim Gallagher, left, at the company’s Westerbister farm, Orkney. Photo: ©SSF.

Salmon farmer Scottish Sea Farms today announced that it will repay all money received from the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as business performance recovers and won’t be making any further claims from the scheme.

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Since March 2020, the company has furloughed 36 full-time and part-time staff – 8% of its 451-strong workforce – under the scheme, amounting to support in the region of £106,000 until the end of June.

SSF managing director Jim Gallagher said: “Both the UK and Scottish Governments were quick to identify food producers as being key to the nation’s resilience during the Covid-19 crisis, so we have worked hard to put in place the protective measures necessary to enable us to operate safely and at near full capacity to help keep supplies of fresh farmed salmon flowing.

“However, for a small percentage of our staff, Covid-19 brought the need to shield, whether for their own protection or that of their loved ones. For others, it has required them to provide full-time care to their children who would otherwise be at nursery or school, making working impossible and furloughing the most practical option.”

It was hugely important to us that these employees weren’t disadvantaged due to personal circumstances.

SSF managing director Jim Gallagher

The furloughed staff have received 100% of their basic pay; 80% through from the Job Retention Scheme and the remaining 20% from SSF, the company stated in a press release.

Gallagher added: “It was hugely important to us that these employees weren’t disadvantaged due to personal circumstances. The Job Retention Scheme has helped ensure they could take the time needed to care for themselves and their families.”

Although it is not yet known exactly it will be safe or practical for the furloughed staff to return to work as normal, SSF is opting to cover the full cost of salaries following an upturn in the company’s fortunes.

Market bounce

“Trading has been exceptionally tough these last few months. On the one hand, panic-buying led to an initial bounce in domestic sales. On the other, our export markets all but closed, resulting in reduced sales, increased freight and operating costs, and significantly reduced profits.

“Now, we’re starting to see a nice bounce in several of these same markets: France, Italy, Spain, Germany and even the Far East are all open again. There’s a long way to go but the business is in profit and as such we feel the money received via the Job Retention Scheme would be better served invested in the country’s essential services and recovery.”

Local supply chain

SSF said repaying the furlough support received is just one of the ways it hopes to contribute to Scotland’s renewal and recovery.

Gallagher said: “We’re opening new farms and working steadily to increase the number of fish grown, we’re committed to continuing our investment in our farming infrastructure and approaches, and we’ll place much of this investment with the local supply chain – all of which will translate into more well-paid, highly-skilled jobs and additional revenue, both for the Scottish economy at large and the many remote and rural communities in which we work.”

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