Humza Yousaf, flanked by Ash Regan, left, and Kate Forbes, is announced as the SNP's new leader.

Salmon farmers hoping for business as usual from Yousaf

SNP’s continuity candidate edges out rural challenger Forbes in leadership race


Trade body Salmon Scotland has said it is looking forward to working with new Scottish National Party leader and First Minister-in-waiting Humza Yousaf to deliver further sustainable growth in the salmon farming sector.

Yousaf was announced as the winner of the SNP’s leadership contest this afternoon, polling 52.1% of the vote ahead of second-placed Kate Forbes, who attracted 47.9%. He is almost certain to be elected First Minister by the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

Yousaf is widely regarded as the “continuity candidate” favoured by former FM Nicola Sturgeon, although she never publicly expressed a preference between Yousaf, Forbes and third candidate Ash Regan, who was eliminated in the first count of votes from the 50,490 SNP members who took part in the ballot.

Rural housing

“The Scottish Government has long been supportive of our sector, which supports 12,500 jobs and is the UK’s biggest food export market, and we want to continue that positive relationship,” said Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott.

“Our members want to see a more streamlined licensing system for aquaculture, action to tackle the rural housing crisis, and a commitment that proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) are based on evidence, not ideology, with a thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities.

“Humza pledged to boost the availability of affordable housing in rural areas during his leadership campaign, and we look forward to seeing that promise being delivered.”

How not to govern

There will nonetheless be a degree of disappointment from some in the Scottish seafood sector that Forbes, Scotland’s finance minister, did not win the leadership contest.

The business-friendly Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP is familiar with the challenges of rural Scotland and had pledged to scrap environment minister Mairi McAllan’s plans for HPMAs, which would ban aquaculture or fishing in 10% of Scotland’s coastal waters. Forbes described the plans as “an example of how not to do government”.

In a press release about HPMAs and aquaculture regulation last Friday, Scott said Forbes appeared open minded on regulatory reforms and that, if she became First Minister, Salmon Scotland would welcome an early discussion with her on policy developments.

The election of Forbes, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, would also have spelled the end of the SNP’s power-sharing agreement with the anti-fish farming Scottish Greens, who find Forbes’ religious opposition to gay marriage, trans rights, and abortion unacceptable.