Scottish aquaculture workers housing boost on the cards

Scotland Government "open" to proposals to ringfence Scottish aquaculture revenues to invest in housing for rural and coastal communities.
Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland. Photo: Salmon Scotland.
Tavish Scott, CEO of Salmon Scotland. Photo: Salmon Scotland.

Fish farming is an important industry for rural and coastal Scotland, but housing in remote areas poses a significant challenge for both communities and employers alike.

Scottish aquaculture trade body Salmon Scotland launched a campaign last year calling on the Scottish Government to consider investing £10 million-a-year in licence fees to help tackle rural Scotland's "housing crisis".

Last week the Scottish Government indicated it was willing to consider taking a similar approach to Norway in redirecting revnues from aquaculture rents to support the local communities on which the industry depends.

Scottish Government "open" to the proposals

Mairi Gougeon, Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, confirmed last week that the Scottish Government is "open" to the revenues being used to support housing.

Gougeon, whose role includes responsibility for aquaculture in Scotland, responded to questions at the Scottish Parliament's rural affairs and islands committee last Wednesday. The Minister said she was "happy to consider" proposals to support housing for people working within the salmon and aquaculture sector.

Scotland's aquaculture revenues set to increase

In a statement, Salmon Scotland pointed out that salmon farmers already contribute more than £5 million directly to Scotland's Crown Estate (CES). However, fees paid by salmon farmers to CES as well as other government agencies such as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are like to rise to £20m per year if current proposals go ahead.

Currently, Salmon Scotland argues, CES revenues are passed to the Scottish Government to be redistributed across Scotland as a whole. However, the trade body wants the government to commit to an annual £10 million from aquaculture contributions to be spent in support of coastal communities where aquaculture is a key employer, investing particularly in housing.

This, they say, will help to tackle problems of depopulation, supporting young people to continue living in coastal communities as well as attracting newcomers to live and work in remote areas.

Investing Scottish aquaculture revenues in communities and housing

In its statement, Salmon Scotland echoes the recommendations of an independent review of aquaculture regulation in Scotland by Professor Russel Griggs, which suggests emulating Norway's system, simplifying licencing and ensuring revenues are reinvested in communities where aquaculture operations are located.

"We are pleased to see that MSPs and the Scottish Government are acknowledging the importance of addressing the housing crisis in our coastal communities, said Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland.

"The lack of available and affordable housing has been a pressing issue, impacting the ability of people to live and work in these areas. Reinvesting the funds generated through salmon farm rents directly back into these communities will have a transformative impact, particularly in addressing the housing challenges faced by local residents," Scott continued in a statement.

"The Scottish salmon sector plays a vital role in creating jobs and contributing to the economy of coastal regions. We firmly believe that the benefits should be felt closest to the farms themselves. By working together, we can drive positive change, ensure sustainable growth of the salmon sector, and make a lasting impact on the communities we serve," he said.

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