A streamlined future for Scottish salmon

The Scottish salmon sector is an extraordinary success story that delivers thousands of rural jobs, generates millions of pounds for the local economy, and farm-raises one of the most nutritious foods we can eat.

We are incredibly proud of our farmers and everyone in the supply chain who all work together to ensure Scottish salmon is renowned across the globe.

With a low carbon footprint and alignment with the UN’s sustainable development goals, aquaculture and the blue economy has a vitally important future ahead of it.

But the regulatory regime for aquaculture in Scotland is not fit for purpose.

The consents and licensing process is unnecessarily lengthy and there are several regulatory bodies involved, but they are not focussed on delivering swiftly.

The need for urgent change is firmly recognised by the Scottish Government, and we are pleased that ministers have this month set out plans for “rapid progress” on streamlining the aquaculture consenting system.

A personal commitment from the Cabinet Secretary

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has made a personal commitment to chair a strategy forum to drive this change, which is a very strong sign of her leadership on this.

This is about better – not less – regulation, and government officials and regulators can be in no doubt as to the direction of travel.

The salmon sector in Scotland will work constructively with government and regulators to deliver improvements across our shared social, economic and environmental priorities.

No time to waste

An independent report for the government by Professor Russel Griggs outlined how to make Scotland a world leader in regulating the blue economy, but three months have already passed since it was published.

Professor Griggs set out a 12-month timescale for reform, so we must act soon.

If the system is more streamlined, as recommended by Griggs, we can deliver the responsible and sustainable growth needed to continue creating vital jobs in the Highlands and Islands, generating millions more for Scotland’s economy.

Investing in our communities

We can learn a lot from Norway, where a single licensing regime enables the sector is growing responsibly – but at a faster pace than in Scotland.

While there is appetite and investment to grow more quickly, Scotland’s farm-raised salmon sector is growing at about 1.4 per cent per year, Norway is already growing at three times that rate.

Norway’s single ‘one stop shop’ for licensing delivers faster decision on planning applications and greater efficiency.

And by adopting a Scandinavian model we can ensure that more money stays in the coastal communities where we farm – boosting investment for local priorities such as the availability of affordable housing.

This is all paid for by salmon farmers with no extra cost to the public purse.

By cutting the red tape, Scottish salmon will have an even brighter future, sustaining jobs and communities, boosting the nation’s physical and mental health, and protection our precious marine environment.