Scottish salmon is enjoyed by people in more than 50 countries, who collectively eat 970 million nutritious, healthy meals every year.
Every single Scottish salmon that ends up on those plates has been raised on farms in the waters off Scotland’s Highlands and islands, but their journey to the consumer requires an immense contribution from the wider supply chain.
While salmon farming directly employs more than 2,500 people in fragile, coastal communities in rural Scotland, there are a further 10,000 Scottish jobs dependent on our sector.
Our direct economic contribution to the UK in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2021 was £766 million: £303 million direct, and on top of that was a further £397million through the supply chain.
The companies which make up that supply chain can be found in every single one of Scotland’s 73 parliamentary constituencies.
A staggering 3,600 suppliers are part of the story, and Scottish salmon farmers spend an estimated £600 million on the services they provide.
This includes everything from feed manufacturers, engineering and equipment firms, boat builders, logistics firms, fuel and utility companies, legal and accountancy businesses, and transport, food and accommodation suppliers.
The vast scale of the operation means that when I meet an MSP or MP from anywhere in Scotland I can tell them about the importance of the Scottish salmon farming sector in their own constituency.
For example, while Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray recently took the time to visit the Western Isles to see a salmon farm for himself. It wasn’t just three salmon farmers and 300 supply chain businesses in the Outer Hebrides I could talk about, but also the 20 suppliers in his urban constituency of Edinburgh South which work with our sector.
I pay tribute to all the companies involved in the journey from egg to plate, many of whom are members of Salmon Scotland.
One such member is DFDS Logistics Scotland, which offers a full range of logistics solutions and is the largest provider of transportation services to the Scottish salmon and seafood industries.
In October, I was pleased to welcome the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, Neil Gray MSP, to DFDS’s massive chilled warehouse facility in Larkhall.
Joined by David Cranston, EU operations manager with DFDS Logistics Scotland and the company’s operations director Mick Devine and operations manager Mark Kelly, we explained how this custom-built distribution centre enables Scottish salmon to reach foreign shores.
The Scottish Government recently published its long-term vision for sustainable aquaculture, recognising our “crucial role” in contributing to food security, net zero and high-skilled jobs.
Following this visit, I came away confident that Neil Gray and his Scottish ministerial colleagues fully appreciate the economic importance of farm-raised salmon.
“Aquaculture and its supply chain are a vital component of the Scottish economy and a significant provider of highly skilled jobs in some of our most fragile rural communities,” he said himself.
He added: “Scottish salmon farming has a key role to play in supporting our goal to transition to a wellbeing economy, by delivering sustainable economic growth, improved food security and meeting our Net Zero targets.
“I am pleased to have met with both Salmon Scotland and DFDS to learn more about how supply chain businesses are supporting the development of the salmon farming sector and to discuss how businesses and the Scottish Government can continue to work together to deliver on our ambitions set out in our National Strategy for Economic Transformation.”
As I write this, First Minister Humza Yousaf has just announced he is embarking on a series of meetings with the business community as part of this new national strategy and his promised “reset” with industry.
“We want our businesses to thrive and for their success to benefit all of society. It’s central to my government’s vision for a wellbeing economy, which meets the needs and aspirations of our people and provides opportunities for all,” he said.
These are welcome words – but, as always, the proof will be in the pudding.
Like all sectors, aquaculture faces challenges from issues ranging from climate change to Brexit to rampant inflation, but by working together with government we can continue to grow a low carbon, highly nutritious food that sustains thousands of jobs in every part of Scotland.
I am determined that this message is heard loud and clear with government at all levels on behalf of farmers and our supply chain.
It’s also a message I am taking to the opposition parties, and we were recently joined by Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson, Daniel Johnson MSP, at a board meeting of Salmon Scotland.
Daniel is overseeing his party’s economic growth strategy, and I have stressed how important it is that aquaculture’s contribution to ‘brand Scotland’ is recognised in this.
In recent weeks, we have faced renewed attacks from the tiny – but vocal – urban-based activists who want to shut our sector down and make thousands of people unemployed.
It is therefore vital that decision-makers understand the truth about our sector, which is where we come in at Salmon Scotland.
To further boost the reputation of the world’s best salmon, and to ensure the supply chain continues to thrive, we are currently taking steps to protect our premium product from food fraud, where inferior salmon products with lower environmental and food safety standards are imported and could be sold as ‘Scottish salmon’.
In 2004, Scottish salmon was awarded with a protected geographic indication, or PGI, which means only farm-raised Atlantic salmon from Scotland can be called ‘Scottish farmed salmon”.
Wild Scottish salmon is not sold in supermarkets, and farm-raised salmon now supplies 100 per cent of the increasing demand for fresh Atlantic salmon.
So we are seeking to boost the legal protections for farm-raised Scottish salmon, particularly post-Brexit, by changing the PGI name simply to ‘Scottish salmon’ which is how everyone already refers to our product.
Our sector is going to be around for decades to come and the role we play in the blue economy is going to increase, but we can only maximise the potential of the blue revolution and generate prosperity for the whole of Scotland if farmers, the supply chain and government continue to work together to make this happen.
This article first appeared in the November 2023 issue of Fish Farmer Magazine.