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Salmon farmers alarmed by potential SNP-Greens pact

Salmon farmers are concerned about the level of influence the Greens may have over the SNP government. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms.
Salmon farmers are concerned about the level of influence the Greens may have over the SNP government. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms.

Scottish salmon farmers are concerned about the impact of a possible co-operation deal between the Scottish National Party government and the Scottish Greens, the BBC reported today.

The SNP won 64 seats in the Holyrood election earlier this month - one short of a majority - and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would have a stable majority if she could also rely on the seven Scottish Green list MSPs, who also support Scottish independence.

However, the Greens want to phase out open net pen salmon farming and block the growth of the sector until environmental and animal welfare concerns are discussed.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell has been critical of the salmon industry.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell has been critical of the salmon industry.

‘Toxic’ claim

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, the party’s spokesperson on Climate, Energy, Environment, Food and Farming, has previously described salmon farming as a “toxic” industry.

The BBC reported a spokesman for the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) as saying that the Greens’ manifesto plans have the potential to prejudice the sector’s future and thousands of jobs.

The SNP is supportive of aquaculture, and has promised to streamline a complex permitting system which currently involves getting permission from several different authorities before a new salmon farm can be established.

Scottish Greens' plans for salmon farming

  • Introduce a moratorium on the licensing of new salmon farms and the expansion of existing ones until environmental and animal welfare concerns are addressed.
  • Insist on stricter monitoring regimes for environmental impacts and fish health and welfare.
  • Give regulators the power to close down failing farms.
  • Ban the use of acoustic deterrent devices, which cause pain and distress to marine mammals.
  • Phase out open cage farming.
  • Support levies on the industry to invest in innovation with the aim of delivering high welfare systems that prevent pollution, livestock escapes and parasite outbreaks.

Alternative practices

A spokesman for Scottish Green MSPs told the BBC that it was too early to say which issues would arise in talks with the SNP.

He said that environmental harm and fish welfare was a higher priority than phasing out caged fish farms altogether.

He explained that the party’s intention was to support industries in finding alternatives to harmful and polluting activities, and not to force sudden change.

Lib Dem support?

If the SNP do clash with the Greens over fish farming, they may find support from the Liberal Democrats to fulfil their manifesto promises.

The Lib Dem manifesto stated that Scotland’s coastal and island communities depend on healthy and growing fishing and aquaculture industries.

It added: “We support the Scottish aquaculture industry and the high value it adds to its Scottish produce. We will support the industry to make continual improvements to production standards and do all we can to smooth its route to international markets.”

Labour’s manifesto made no specific mention of aquaculture, while the Conservatives’ rural manifesto focused on agriculture.