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Ian Murray visits Western Isles salmon farm to explore sector’s local economy support. Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray saw first-hand how farm-raised salmon is boosting coastal communities during a visit to a leading Western Isles’ producer.

The Labour MP toured Bakkafrost Scotland’s Loch Roag salmon farm on Lewis, which provides well-paid, year-round jobs across the island. Mr Murray praised the sector’s “immense contribution” to the economy and its “crucial” support for livelihoods. He was joined by Western Isles Labour candidate Torcuil Crichton and welcomed to Loch Roag by Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, and Iain MacIntyre, director of marine operations at Bakkafrost Scotland.

Scottish salmon is the UK’s largest food export, with recent HMRC figures showing that exports jumped by nine per cent to £306 million, driven by significant growth in the Asian and American markets. Scotland’s farm-raised salmon sector directly employs more than 2,500 people in Scotland and supports over 3,600 suppliers and an additional 10,000 indirect jobs. In the Western Isles alone, the sector employs more than 400 people and contributes in excess of £150 million annually to the local economy.

Trade body Salmon Scotland is calling for an overhaul of the complex regulatory and planning system for aquaculture. Through streamlined reforms, achieving additional sustainable growth for Scotland’s rural and coastal communities becomes possible, leading to the creation of more high-paid, high-skilled local jobs.
Ian Murray, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said:

“As the UK’s largest food export, Scottish salmon makes an immense contribution to our national economy. The salmon farming sector also provides vital local jobs in the Western Isles and rural areas throughout the Highlands and islands, with the farms crucial for livelihoods and communities. In some remote coastal areas, the jobs created by the local salmon farm are the only reason that shops, restaurants and other businesses are viable. It is the job of government to ensure the continued success of Scottish salmon, facilitating sustainable growth with animal welfare remaining a top priority.”

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:

“Scottish salmon generates significant wealth for our islands and Highland coastal communities. We were delighted Mr Murray took the time to get his feet wet and see first-hand how our skilled farmers look after the salmon in their care. He rightly recognises the vital importance of international trade for Scottish salmon and its contribution to the entire UK economy.

“Our sector is the economic backbone of coastal communities like the Western Isles, with 400 livelihoods directly dependent on the sector. Many of them are employed by our hosts Bakkafrost Scotland, the biggest private sector employer in the Outer Hebrides. With the cost-of-living crisis putting pressure on public services, the revenue generated by our farmers has never been more important. I am confident that, by working together, the Scottish salmon sector will successfully navigate the opportunities and challenges ahead to turbocharge the Western Isles’ and wider economy.”

Ian Laister, managing director of Bakkafrost Scotland, said:

“Bakkafrost Scotland aims to be the leading sustainable salmon producer in Scotland, and with more than 500 staff across 54 sites on the west coast, we remain committed to bringing long-term quality employment opportunities to what can often be among the country’s more remote and fragile communities.

“Today’s visit provided an important opportunity to share our approach to being one of the world’s most vertically integrated salmon farming businesses – from feed to finished products. This ensures unrivalled traceability, consistently exceptional quality, and our world-renowned provenance. We believe the welfare and health of our fish and the natural environment are intrinsically linked and represent the basis of responsible salmon farming. This approach will help drive economic growth in the rural communities in which we live and work.”

Image: Torcuil Crichton, Tavish Scott, Iain MacIntyre, Ian Murray, David Blair and Gordon McKee. Credit: Sandie Maciver/SandiePhotos