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Salmon Scotland, the trade body for the Scottish salmon industry, has written to all three of Scotland’s First Ministerial candidates to seek continued support for the sector and to raise concerns about the proposed introduction of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).

The Scottish Government plans to designate at least 10% of Scotland’s seas as HPMAs. Work has begun this year to find the most appropriate locations for the protected sites, before they are officially designated in 2026. The proposals were made available for consultation, with responses gathered by 20 March 2023.

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The new designations would mean a ban on marine activity, including aquaculture and fishing, in protected sites.

Outcome of SNP leadership contest may change plans

Addressing the HPMA consultation, Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott said a “thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities is essential”.

Following Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon‘s decision to step down as SNP leader, a leadership contest is currently underway. The new leader, who will also become Scotland’s First Minister, is expected to be announced this week.

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has pledged to scrap the proposal, and has also suggested that decision-making on such environmental protections could be devolved to Scotland’s local authorities.

Scott expressed approval of her comments, saying, “Kate Forbes looks open minded on further reforms and if she becomes our First Minister we would welcome an early discussion with her on these important policy developments and how they could benefit the sustainable growth of the sector.”

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Potential social and economic impacts of HPMAs

Scott also stressed the importance of salmon aquaculture for the Scottish economy. “Scottish salmon adds £760 million-a-year to the country’s economy, we are the UK’s biggest food export, and the sector employs more than 2,500 people in fragile, coastal communities across rural and island Scotland, with a further 10,000 Scottish jobs dependent on the supply chain,” he said.

“We ask that government thoroughly consider the social and economic impacts of this policy on the sectors, industries and communities that operate in Scotland’s coastal regions, as well as those that are impacted across Scotland, through the supply chain.”

“That is yet to happen and if government does proceed with this policy, a thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities is essential.”

Investment in rural housing and reform of aquaculture regulations

In his letter, Scott also repeated Salmon Scotland’s request for greater government investment in rural housing. He also reminded the candidates about the findings of an independent review into the Scottish aquaculture industry in 2022, which argued for “urgent change”.

“The consents and licensing process for salmon farms is unnecessarily long and complex, with several regulatory bodies involved, leading to delays, uncertainty, unnecessary cost and bureaucratic procedures.”

By streamlining the system, Scott argued, Scottish aquaculture “can be more competitive on the global arena”.

“Our ask is for faster progress on implementing Prof Griggs’ recommendations, which have already been accepted by the Scottish Government.”

About Salmon Scotland

Salmon Scotland is the trade body for Scotland’s farm-raised salmon sector which sustains 12,500 local jobs and brings in nearly £800 million for the economy each year. It represents every company farming salmon in Scotland along with companies from across the Scottish salmon supply chain, championing the sector’s interests. Salmon Scotland also works with its members, the UK and Scottish governments and regulators to help shape the regulatory environment so both Scotland and its members can thrive.

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