David Sandison: "This is a great opportunity for us to engage better, at a political level but also with regulators." Photo: FFE

SSPO aiming to 'bust a few myths' at Holyrood

Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation general manager David Sandison will state the industry's case at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow when he gives evidence to an inquiry by MSPs.

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Sandison is one of several witnesses who will appear before the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR), which is looking into the environmental impacts of salmon farming.

Witness: John Aitchison

He is in the first session, alongside John Aitchison, of Friends of the Sound of Jura, and Sam Collin, marine planning officer at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, who is convener of the aquaculture sub group for Scottish Environment LINK, the forum for Scotland's voluntary environment organisations.

Proper discourse

Sandison said: "This is a good chance for us to actually have a proper discourse, rather than responding to selective critiques, and this is a great opportunity for us to engage better, to engage at a political level but also to engage with regulators who are actually keen to hear from us, and we welcome the chance to bust a few myths and to put our case across, rather than something that may appear lopsided, especially with the way that the media picks up storylines.

"I've read the report from cover to cover many times. It's only come out very recently, not a lot of time to really do detailed analysis, because everybody talks about it being 196 pages but it's actually only 135. Sixty pages are the references to the actual documents that have been analysed.

"You would have to have spent quite a lot of time going through all that stuff to really get a better feel for what the science is telling you, and I would encourage people who are trying to engage here to do that, to read as much of that as possible."

Review of evidence

The second group of witnesses comprises Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) chief officer Anne Anderson; Highland Council planning team leader Mark Harvey; James McKie, head of Marine Scotland's Licensing Operations Team (MS-LOT); and Rob Raynard, Marine Scotland's aquaculture and fish health programme manager.

Last week the committee took evidence from the authors of a review of existing evidence and literature on the effects of salmon farming on the environment. The review, by Oban-based Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) Research Services Ltd, was commissioned on behalf of the committee.

Sea fans

Friends of the Sound of Jura campaigned against a plan for a new farm by Kames, which was withdrawn by the company after Scottish Natural Heritage said deposits from the site could damage nearby sea fans. It is also urging visitors to its website to sign a petition entitled "Clean up Scotland's unsustainable fish farming industry".

The petition has been organised by a group called the Salmon Aquaculture Reform Network (SARNS), which described itself as "a growing coalition of individuals, environmental, community and conservation groups covering the West Highlands and Islands area, with shared concerns about the future direction of Scotland’s salmon farming industry".

Tomorrow's meeting starts at 9.30am, and can be viewed live at www.scottishparliament.tv.