Speaking today at the Rural Housing Scotland conference, Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott argued that a lack of affordable accommodation is holding back the Scottish rural economy, and called for more money generated by salmon farming regions to be reinvested in rural communities to help pay for good quality housing for local people.
"A lack of affordable housing is stopping the Highlands and Islands from becoming a northern powerhouse," Scott argued.
"Salmon farming companies are using their own money to provide warm, comfortable, quality accommodation for people who fill essential roles. We also use rentals, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels which contribute to the local economy all year round."
"But the salmon sector can't solve this crisis alone," he continued, calling for "urgent action" on the matter from the Scottish Government. "That's why we suggest that £10 million of the money that salmon farmers pay to the landlord Crown Estate Scotland could be invested in tackling the housing crisis," he said.
House prices in rural and coastal communities across Scotland have risen above the Scottish average, with prices in some of the most remote areas rising by 168% in 2022 when compared to 2004. Key locations for Scottish aquaculture include Argyll and Bute, the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, all of which have house prices well above the national average, according to Salmon Scotland.
Salmon Scotland has previously called for "greater investment" in rural housing to encourage employment in the aquaculture sector. In today's statement, Salmon Scotland noted that salmon farming companies currently provide accommodation for 130 employees and their families after buying or renting suitable housing. However, many workers are still unable to find homes near where they work.
Scott said that housing supply shortages are not just a problem for the salmon sector, but for the wider rural economy. In addition to elevated house prices, the high proportion of empty properties owned by buy-to-let landlords are a significant problem, the Scottish Salmon CEO suggested.
"The impact of a lack of affordable housing cannot be underestimated – it means not being able to live near where you work, it separates families and contributes to the depopulation of our island communities."
"Salmon Scotland will continue to champion our coastal communities and do everything we can to be part of the solution to one of the biggest problems facing the region," he added.
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.