THE Holyrood inquiry into the future of salmon farming in Scotland will demand extensive changes to how the industry is regulated, according to a report in the Sunday Post yesterday.
Quoting ‘a source close to the [Rural Economy and Connectivity] committee’, which conducted the probe, the Post reported that MSPs are concerned about the industry’s complex regulatory regime.
The source said: ‘The current situation creates confusion, with lots of different regulations and various enforcement agencies struggling to cope with the industry’s expansion.’
The REC committee is expected to call for tougher regulations to cut down on waste pollution from farms, the number of sea lice cases and harm to wild salmon stocks.
But MSPs will leave it up to the Scottish government, working in conjunction with the industry, to achieve such outcomes, said the Sunday Post.
The REC committee, which finished taking evidence from interested parties, including salmon farmers and anti-farming campaigners, in May, has now met four times in private to discuss its findings.
There has been no word, officially, of how the deliberations are going, but they were described as ‘passionate’ by a parliamentary spokesman.
However, at least one MSP on the REC committee appears to have been leaking information from the private sessions to anti-salmon farming campaigners.
Asked by Fish Update to confirm whether the latest leak was accurate or not, a Scottish parliamentary spokesperson said: ‘Committees do not comment on leaks of draft reports or other issues discussed in private meetings. The leaking of such material is a breach of the Code of Conduct for MSPs.
‘Consideration of the draft report of the committee’s inquiry into salmon farming in Scotland is being held in private, which is standard practice for committees at the Scottish parliament. The final report will be published in due course.’
Meanwhile, a motion lodged this month by Green MSP Mark Ruskell has called on the Scottish parliament to accept that fish are ‘sentient individuals with the capacity to suffer’.
It calls on the Scottish government to support a moratorium on the expansion of salmon farming ‘until the industry can guarantee that farmed salmon have a good life that is worth living’.
The Scottish government is committed to growing the salmon farming industry, which is worth £1.8 billion and supports thousands of jobs in rural communities.
The rural economy minister, Fergus Ewing, has again pledged his support for the sector, assuring farmers in Orkney last week that he would continue fighting for them.
He said he and the Scottish government would offer ‘every support we can to deal with the detractors, to get the positives across, and together see even greater success in the future’.
In response to the Sunday Post claims, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said: ‘We are awaiting with interest the report from the Rural Economy Committee and will study its recommendations carefully.
‘We will reserve comment until the report is published, and cannot comment on speculation.’
Picture: REC committee convener Edward Mountain