Salmon Scotland is urging ministers to overhaul the current system so that the millions sent to Crown Estate Scotland by salmon farmers are instead ringfenced for investment in coastal areas. House prices have risen more in the Highlands and islands than across the whole of Scotland over the past two decades, raising fears that people and businesses are being forced out of the country’s most fragile communities.
Scotland’s cluttered licensing regime and rent hikes means that more than £20 million-a-year is due to paid by salmon farmers to various regulators and quangos. The millions sent from rural areas to Crown Estate Scotland in Edinburgh are currently handed to the Scottish Government and redistributed across the entire country.
Salmon Scotland is calling for around £10 million of the revenue to be reinvested in rural communities, with a particular focus on housing. This would help attract more people to come and live and work in all jobs in coastal communities, while also retaining locals to help to tackle de-population.
Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said, “the shortage of available, affordable housing in island and Highland communities is pricing people out of the housing market and businesses are experiencing problems recruiting and retaining staff – leading to hard-to-fill vacancies, skills shortages and depopulation.
“Long-term house price rises are being exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, and Scottish ministers should be looking at every lever available to them to make life easier for working people.
“The greatest economic contributor to these coastal communities is the Scottish salmon sector, directly providing 2,500 local jobs – and thousands more through the supply chain.
“We are proud of the jobs and wealth we create in rural Scotland, and we believe our local communities should be the ones who benefit the most.
“There is an opportunity in the Programme for Government for ministers to ensure the millions sent to quangos are put to better use by building affordable housing, ensuring the economic success generated by Scotland’s biggest food export is enjoyed by the communities where we operate.”
Crown Estate responds
A spokesperson for Crown Estate Scotland’ responded: “The seabed is a shared, public space and, like many multi-national businesses, salmon farmers pay to use it for their commercial purposes. Crown Estate Scotland then passes profits to the Scottish Government and Ministers decide how that money is used. From 2017 to 2021, over £28m from Crown Estate Scotland was passed by Scottish Government to coastal local authorities to support COVID-19 recovery projects, economic regeneration and job creation, flood protection, environmental projects, and more.”