How cutting red tape could help the Scottish salmon sector thrive

By Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland

SCOTLAND’S farm-raised salmon is renowned across the globe and here at home for being one of the most nutritious and sustainable products we can eat.

The low-carbon sector supports more than 10,000 jobs, brings in hundreds of millions of pounds for the economy, and greatly improves the health of the nation.

But this remarkable success story has been achieved despite the bureaucratic hurdles in the way.

By reducing red tape, Scottish salmon could do even more to achieve responsible, sustainable aquaculture growth – creating more local jobs, investing in more rural housing and contributing more to the UN’s goals of international food security.

Scottish salmon has been instrumental in driving global demand and consumption, thanks to the shift from being primarily wild-caught to farm-raised.

Increasing competition

But without action by government, we will lose out to our Scandinavian neighbours who have a clear running track ahead of them without the hurdles we face in Scotland.

While Scottish salmon farming is growing at about 1.4 per cent per year, Norway’s sector is already growing at three times that rate - and in Iceland it surged by 35 per cent last year.

The risk is that the jobs in Scotland which depend on Scottish salmon will be squeezed out, and the economic benefits for the country will be lost.

Several things need to happen.

Regulatory reform

First, we need to reform the regulatory system here in Scotland.

Earlier this year, Professor Russel Griggs published an independent review into the system governing aquaculture, which confirmed that the current set-up does not work. 

It is right and proper that our sector is regulated, but we should mirror international best practice and have a single body in charge.

At present, our members pay into several bodies – including Crown Estate Scotland which has received £20 million over the last five years and now wants to hike rates by 95 per cent.

Yet there are no details on how - or if - this extra money will be used to help local people in the areas where it is raised.

If the system was more streamlined, greater contributions could go to communities rather than into quango coffers.

There is a major housing shortage in rural Scotland, for example, which the farm-raised salmon sector could help address through local investment.

But the reforms also need to go much further than the regulatory system.

Greater flexibility

We need greater flexibility in the UK’s immigration system to help address labour shortages.

There is a workforce squeeze and fish processing should be added to the short-term occupation list to make it easier to recruit labour from the EU.

Streamlining post-Brexit

We also need the UK Government to do all it can to speed up the removal of the bureaucratic post-Brexit paperwork system for exporting goods to the EU.

Scottish salmon is the UK’s largest food export, but our members have faced an extra £3 million in costs each year since we left the EU.

The shift to a digital Export Health Certificate (EHC) system must be accelerated by the UK Government so that we can continue to deliver responsible, sustainable growth to help both the environment and the economy.

By cutting the red tape, Scottish salmon can have an even brighter future, sustaining jobs and communities, boosting physical and mental health, and supporting our shared environment.