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Scotland’s salmon farmers have welcomed SNP commitment to a swifter and more streamlined regulatory system for fish farming. The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said the SNP pledge to adopt regulatory reform, if the SNP is returned to power, would help the farmed salmon sector grow sustainability over the long term.

The SNP manifesto, published today (April 15) includes a commitment to a “new approach” to the way fish farming planning consents are handled.

At the moment, four different regulatory bodies oversee the consenting process with each one acting as a statutory consultee on the process handled by the others.

If re-elected, the SNP will look to establish a “single determining authority” modelled on the system in Norway.

Tavish Scott, the Chief Executive of the SSPO said:

“We have been clear: what we want to see is better regulation, not less regulation and this commitment in the SNP manifesto shows that the SNP wants to see this too.”

Mr Scott said he hoped this would end the delays and bureaucratic confusion which plagues the system in Scotland – without restricting official scrutiny or public consultation on fish farm applications.

The SNP manifesto also commits the party to explore the development of “closed containment fish production”.

Mr Scott said Scotland’s salmon farmers had already made great strides in developing state-of-the-art closed containment systems for early-stage salmon development and these would continue.

He said:

“Our members have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in land-based closed containment systems to grow salmon to the stage when they can be put to sea. This is the most important phase of the salmon’s development, where most growth happens and Scottish salmon achieves its distinctive flavour.

“These developments will continue and our members will continue to invest in this technology so that our sector remains at the leading edge of aquaculture worldwide.”

And he added:

“The SNP administration has long recognised the benefits that salmon farming brings to Scotland, not just in promoting the country abroad but in the huge economic support it provides to many remote, rural communities.

“The Scottish salmon sector not only provides a healthy, nutritious, locally produced protein but it supports more than 10,000 jobs, many of them vital to keeping remote communities going.

“The sector has the potential to help lead Scotland out of the Covid pandemic and regulatory reform is key to realising that potential.”

The SNP manifesto, published today (15.04.21) states: 

Fish farming is something that Scotland is well placed to do well in, but it must grow sustainably, in harmony with the marine environment that supports it.

We will reform and streamline regulatory processes so that development is more responsive, transparent and efficient.

At the heart of our new approach there will be a single determining authority for new farm consents modelled on the regulatory regime in Norway. This will bring greater clarity, transparency and speed to the process.

We will expect producers to contribute much more to the communities which support them so we will also explore how a Norwegian-style auction system for new farm developments might generate significant income to support inspection and welfare services, provide real community benefit on islands and in remote rural areas and support innovation and enterprise.

We will support innovation in aquaculture, for example, by exploring the development of closed containment fish production on land and explore the potential to produce more shellfish in warm-water, land-based farms to cut the amount of unsustainably produced fish and shellfish being imported into Scotland.

Photo credit: SSPO