Rural depopulation? Subsidise housing with aquaculture licence fees, says Salmon Scotland

As Scotland's Highlands and Islands face "significant population decline", salmon trade body reiterates call to ringfence money from aquaculture for affordable rural housing.
Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland.
Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland. Photo: Salmon Scotland.

A new report by Scotland's Highland Council warns that some areas in the Scottish Highlands are being "drained" of people.

A combination of factors have led to the decline, but one of the principle drivers behind rural depopulation in the Highlands is housing, the report says.

This has prompted salmon industry trade body Salmon Scotland to reiterate its call to use money the Scottish Government collects from licence fees to support access to affordable housing in rural communities.

Aquaculture is one of the "key areas" that can help curb depopulation - but "joined up" thinking needed, says report

"Issues around access to housing, transport, quality employment and the availability of skilled workers are all interconnected," the Highland Council report states.

"Consequently, a whole system approach is needed if the compound impact in rural areas of historic underfunding, combined with the high cost of service delivery and widespread market failure, is to be reversed," it suggests.

Opportunities for long-term sustainability in areas with a declining population include the "key areas" of renewable energy, ports, harbour industries, tourism and aquaculture, the report suggests.

However, to take advantage of these opportunities, the government needs to take "a joined-up approach to retaining and attracting population to the region," the report argues.

"Joined up" approach needed to tackle rural depopulation, says Highland Council. Pictured: Former fishing village of Dornie, Lochalsh, in the Scottish Highlands.
"Joined up" approach needed to tackle rural depopulation, says Highland Council. Pictured: Former fishing village of Dornie, Lochalsh, in the Scottish Highlands.Photo: Adobe Stock.

Salmon Scotland calls for annual licence fees to be reinvested in affordable housing

In order to tackle the growing property crisis in rural communities, Salmon Scotland has repeatedly called for money generated from licence fees to be redirected to develop or subsidise housing in rural communities.

Specifically, the trade body suggests that £10 million-a-year in licence fees which are paid to Crown Estate Scotland should be "reinvested in affordable housing to tackle the growing property crisis in rural communities".

The organisation points out that Scottish salmon aquaculture adds more than £220 million a year to the north west Highlands’ economy, directly supporting around 1,000 local jobs and hundreds of suppliers in the region.

“The Scottish salmon sector employs thousands of people in our most fragile coastal communities," said Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott.

“The well-paid, year-round jobs we provide are the lifeblood of Highland and island communities. If we were to disappear, so would the jobs, the local schools, the shops, everything that makes island life liveable."

“One of the greatest risks to this way of life is the lack of affordable housing, which is why we’ve been calling on the Scottish Government to ringfence around £10 million of the rent which Crown Estate Scotland receives from salmon farmers to provide housing that enables local working age people to live and work in the town and villages they grew up in," Scott said.

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