Tavish Scott: "The Scottish salmon sector is a bright spot in the Scottish and UK economies and is ready to invest and create jobs."

Help us to help the economy, salmon farmers tell politicians

Trade body lists measures UK and Scottish governments can take to boost sector

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Scotland’s salmon farmers have put forward a wish-list of changes they want politicians at Westminster and Holyrood to make to help the sector thrive.

Scottish salmon was the UK’s most valuable food export last year, but trade body Salmon Scotland said the sector is facing several business challenges.

The increased red tape following Brexit continues to add costs and delays for Scottish salmon farmers, while the UK’s recession has dampened the economic environment.

Slow pace of reform

And the slow pace of regulatory reform by the Scottish Government further adds to the challenges facing farming companies, Salmon Scotland said.

Ahead of this year’s general election, it has urged all political parties to do more to support the sector, setting out a series of demands.

The organisation has also warned that other nations are looking to increase salmon sales at a faster rate, highlighting how vital it is that Scotland is seen as “open for business”.

Economic bright spot

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott said: “It’s testament to the hard work of salmon farmers in rural Scotland that our fish has been named the UK’s biggest export in 2023 in such challenging economic circumstances.

“The Scottish salmon sector is a bright spot in the Scottish and UK economies and is ready to invest and create jobs.

“This is all the more important given the UK is now officially in recession and there is no growth in Scotland, so we need more government support to ensure that Scotland is open for business.

“Other nations are desperate to emulate our success, and it is vital that our sector - which provides work for 12,500 people and sustains our remotest communities – is supported so that we can deliver sustainable growth for decades to come.”

What Salmon Scotland wants from Westminster:

Immigration: a more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK, which recognises the unique challenges Scotland’s coastal and rural farming communities face, including a change to key worker definitions and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people coming here to work.

EU relationship: a serious, pragmatic approach to the UK’s relationship with the EU, with a clear focus on the nation’s export businesses which depend on a positive, professional relationship with France and the other countries of the EU.

Veterinary agreement: the creation of a bespoke and mutually convenient Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement between the UK and EU which returns efficiencies to supply chains on both sides of the Short Straits (the Channel) to help consumers and businesses in both territories.

International trade: smoother trade flow and access to new markets. Specifically, the lack of a new eCertification for export health certificates (EHCs), and issues with the current outdated system, is costing salmon farmers millions of pounds every year. Salmon Scotland says improving the certification programme should be an urgent priority for Defra.

What Salmon Scotland wants from Edinburgh:

Regulatory reform: changes to the licensing programme for salmon farms that is lengthy and involves several regulatory bodies. If the system is more streamlined, as recommended by Professor Russel Griggs in a recent independent review, the sector can deliver the responsible and sustainable growth needed to continue creating jobs in Scotland.

Rural housing: in many remote parts of Scotland, salmon farms are vital to the future of local businesses and communities, but the lack of access to rural housing is a major barrier for workers. The sector is calling for reform to ensure that a significant proportion of the seabed licence fees paid by salmon farmers is reinvested directly in rural communities, with a particular focus on creating new housing.