Salmon farmers urge SNP leadership rivals to re-think plan for marine no-go zones
MSPs should ‘thoroughly consider the social and economic impacts of this policy’
The trade body for Scottish salmon has written to the three candidates seeking to be Scotland’s next First Minister to seek continued support for the sector and to raise concerns about proposed ban on marine activity in stretches of water.
Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott urged SNP leadership hopefuls Kate Forbes, Ash Regan, and Humza Yousaf to recognise the economic contribution of salmon farms, address the nation’s rural housing crisis, and take action to streamline the aquaculture licensing regime.
Addressing the consultation currently under way on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which would see around 10% of coastal waters around Scotland closed to human activity, Scott said a “thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities is essential”.
'How not to do government'
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has said HPMAs would have a catastrophic effect on Scotland’s fisheries sector, and Forbes – who represents the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency - has pledged to scrap the proposal. She described the HPMA plan as “an example of how not to do government”.
Forbes has also said she would consult on which of Scottish Government agency Marine Scotland’s statutory responsibilities could be “more effectively delivered by local authorities”.
Kate Forbes looks open minded on further reforms and if she becomes our First Minister we would welcome an early discussion with her.
Salmon Scotland chief
executive Tavish Scott
Scott said: “Kate Forbes looks open minded on further reforms and if she becomes our First Minister we would welcome an early discussion with her on these important policy developments and how they could benefit the sustainable growth of the sector.”
A champion for salmon
In his letter to all three candidates, Scott said: “As a key contributor to the economy, our sector recognises the importance of collaboration and dialogue with government.”
He also praised Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon.
Scott wrote: “On behalf of the trade body for the Scottish Salmon sector, I wish to express our strong desire to continue the positive relationship we have with the Scottish Government.
“We have enjoyed an excellent working relationship with your colleague Mairi Gougeon, who has been a tireless champion for Scottish salmon.
“We look forward to the decision that your party will make and Parliament in appointing a new First Minister and ministers.
“Scottish salmon adds £760 million-a-year to the country’s economy, we are the UK’s biggest food export, and the sector employs more than 2,500 people in fragile, coastal communities across rural and island Scotland, with a further 10,000 Scottish jobs dependent on the supply chain.
“As a key contributor to the economy, our sector recognises the importance of collaboration and dialogue with government.”
On HPMAs, Scott urged the Scottish Government to “thoroughly consider the social and economic impacts of this policy on the sectors, industries and communities that operate in Scotland’s coastal regions, as well as those that are impacted across Scotland, through the supply chain.”
He added that if the government does proceed with the policy, “a thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities is essential”.
Addressing the rural housing crisis, Scott repeated Salmon Scotland’s call that £10 million of the rents paid by salmon farmers to Crown Estate Scotland for marine sites be ringfenced for direct investment in rural housing.
“Our farming companies already provide accommodation for employees and their families, but many staff simply cannot find homes near their work,” said Scott, who was MSP for Shetland for 20 years.
More than one year since the independent review of aquaculture by Professor Russel Griggs for the government, Scott added: “Professor Griggs published his conclusions in February 2022, stating that the current set-up needs urgent change to deliver on the full potential of the blue economy. We agree.
“The consents and licensing process for salmon farms is unnecessarily long and complex, with several regulatory bodies involved, leading to delays, uncertainty, unnecessary cost, and bureaucratic procedures.
“If the system is streamlined, as Professor Griggs recommends, our sector can be more competitive on the global arena.
“Our ask is for faster progress on implementing Professor Griggs’ recommendations, which have already been accepted by the Scottish Government.”
Scott concluded: “I would welcome a meeting with you to discuss these issues and the future of our sector. I also extend an open invitation for you to visit any of our members’ farms and the supply chain businesses who operate in every part of Scotland.”