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SSA calls for early meeting with new minister

SSA calls for early meeting with new minister

The Scottish Seafood Association (SSA) says it is crucial that the new Scottish cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Mairi Gougeon MSP, pays an early visit to the heart of the seafood processing in the north-east to learn more about the many challenges facing the sector.

According to a report in the Press & Journal, SSA chief executive Jimmy Buchan said there were many issues needing Ms Gougeon’s attention as the processing sector continues to battle against the twin impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit, which saw major disruption for exports of Scottish seafood earlier this year.

He told the Press & Journal “Any new minister coming into the brief needs to engage with various parts of the seafood industry.

“What always concerns me is that we (processors) often seem to be the forgotten sector, even though we are the biggest employer and a vital part of the seafood supply chain.”

It is vital for Ms Gougeon to understand the important role of the supply chain as an integral part of the wider industry, with the catch and processing sectors working together like “hand and glove” in getting Scottish seafood from sea to plate, Mr Buchan said.

He added: “In the past, it is the fishermen who have always been first and foremost in (government) briefings – but we need to make sure one sector does not dominate the narrative. Fergus (former fisheries minister Fergus Ewing) fully understood that.

Mr Ewing  – who has stepped down from front bench duties – has left an important “legacy” in that he and his team of officials, together with counterparts from the UK Government were able to “strip out all the politics” and team up in a taskforce that was set up earlier this year to help resolve Scottish seafood export woes, Mr Buchan said.

SSA’s CEO said it was important for Ms Gougeon to keep up this constructive dialogue, adding she may also bring some “new energy” and “fresh” ideas to the role. “I look forward to her sharing some of her thinking on how we can move forward,” he said.