SSPO puts hope in post-Brexit report

THE Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) has published a working paper aimed at securing the best possible outcome for the Scottish salmon industry post- Brexit.

As talks take place between the UK and EU negotiating parties, the SSPO says its report will act as a starting point for discussions.

The organisation has identified four key themes underpinning the industry’s aims and hopes: customs arrangements; legal and regulatory certainty; workforce and communities; and international trade policies.

The European market was worth £149 million to Scottish companies in the first six months of 2017, representing approximately 47 per cent by volume and over 43 per cent by value of total salmon exports from Scotland.

Scott Landsburgh, SSPO chief executive, said: ‘While the report itself is reasonably ‘high level’ and broad rather than deep in content, much detailed work has gone on behind the scenes in preparing a Brexit strategy.

‘We have consulted far and wide, and held constructive talks at senior political levels. We are, in the main, encouraged by the willingness of politicians and civil servants to listen to our concerns, give feedback and updates and push our agenda forward.

‘But there is nothing concrete that we can rely on as things stand. We have a number of aspirations for our industry on what the talks will bring for us but, ultimately, we have to assume a ‘worst case scenario’.

‘We need to be able to work without a free trade deal if it comes to that and we have spent a good deal of time establishing what would be needed to make this scenario work sufficiently for our industry.’

He said the biggest concern is what might happen at the port of entry. ‘The EU are legally compelled to accept our goods but they can put all sorts of strictures in the way to make it difficult and if you’ve got perishable product…there could be a real problem.’

Landsburgh added: ‘In our ideal scenario, the UK and EU would agree a tariff-free comprehensive free trade deal that allows our produce to enter EU markets in much the same way and at the same cost and within the same timeframes as now.

‘Then we could move on to taking the potential opportunities that the situation gives us – new free trade deals with other world markets and, ideally, a more efficient customs and exporting process. But we are still some way off achieving this as far as anyone can tell.’

He said other markets, outside Europe, could be expanded: ‘I think that could be achieved quite quickly, particularly in the US. I don’t think there is any trade impediment to that – there are some other things on the horizon like the seals regulation, which is still a concern. If we get that issue resolved I think it wouldn’t take too much effort to massively expand the US export market. They’re receptive to our brand, they’re receptive to the quality of Scottish salmon, they like the heritage story, and don’t appear to have any major issue with the price of our fish.

‘That could be quite a ripe market for us to exploit and develop in fairly rapid time if we had to. But the French in particular in the EU have been very loyal to us over the years and we would like to maintain that supply.’

The SSPO said the salmon industry in Scotland employs, directly and indirectly, around 8,800 people, of whom it estimates up to 65 per cent are non-UK citizens from the European Union.

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