Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has accepted all of the review recommendations in principle.

Scottish Government backs shake-up of aquaculture regulation

The Scottish Government has accepted all the recommendations of an independent review of the country’s aquaculture regulation in principle, it said today.

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The review by business, public and third sector regulatory expert Professor Russel Griggs was commissioned by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon and concluded that the regulatory system was widely regarded as unfit for purpose.

Griggs has recommended that the Scottish Government should work through a Project Board to produce, within 12 months, a 10-year framework for each part of the aquaculture sector (finfish, shellfish, and seaweed) within which all must operate.

He has also proposed that a new single licensing payment is introduced, based on tonnage output of each site, which covers the costs of all bodies involved in the regulatory process and addresses community benefit as well.

In a Scottish Government press release, Gougeon said: “This is a comprehensive piece of work by Professor Griggs and I am very grateful to him for the significant amount of time and effort that has gone into delivering it.

“I welcome the ambitious range of recommendations he has made and we accept them all in principle.

“Aquaculture is a significant contributor to our rural economy, providing well paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities and will be an essential part of our green recovery and transition to net zero.

Environmentally and economically sustainable

“It is important that change to the sector is delivered in a practical way that reflects the co-operation agreement with the Scottish Green Party and our own manifesto commitments.

“Developing world-leading legislation for aquaculture is key to developing a sector that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

“We will take a short amount of time to consider the proposals, and maintain the momentum of this important work.”

Russel Griggs: "It has been a fascinating and interesting review."

Frank and open

Griggs said: “It has been a fascinating and interesting review from many standpoints and I would like to thank the organisations and individuals who took part in this process for their frank and open contributions.

“It is clear that while there is a broad range of views on aquaculture there is also a lot of commonality in certain aspects so it is an industry which faces significant opportunities as well as challenges.

“I firmly believe that this process I am recommending will deliver a regulatory landscape that promotes a thriving environmentally and economically sustainable sector based on the best knowledge we have on all issues at that time.”

Vision for Aquaculture

In his summary of the review, Griggs said the Scottish Government will shortly produce its own Vision for Aquaculture in Scotland, and that an aquaculture framework should be developed from that.

He added that once the framework is in place, only the Cabinet Secretary should have the power to sanction change.

“Different bodies within national and local government, regulators, and other associated bodies will be responsible for implementing the framework to ensure they are delivered. They do so as implementers only,” wrote Griggs.

Salmon Scotland, which represents all of Scotland’s salmon farmers, has welcomed the review’s findings.

A route map to the future

Chief executive Tavish Scott said: “The Scottish Government now has a blueprint for change that can make Scotland a world leader in regulating the blue economy.”

He added: “Russel Griggs has given all those involved in a £1 billion Scottish success story a route map to becoming internationally competitive in delivering protein for the domestic market and overseas. We urge the Scottish Government to grasp this opportunity.”

The review can be read here.