The SSPO’s rebrand is more than just a change of name, as Hamish Macdonell reports.
“You have to make it relevant to them: how does it affect them in their own constituencies.” That was the assessment of one coastal MSP with salmon farms in her constituency, suggesting ways to get other MSPs and MPs enthused about the sector.
Like me, she knew it had always been a problem for us. We never had an issue engaging with parliamentarians in the areas where we farm.
They were very aware of the economic bulwark our farmers provide, often in fragile, remote areas. They knew about the jobs and the good pay that went with them, the supported communities and the infrastructure provided.
However, it was a much harder job getting those in non-fish-farming areas to sit up and take notice. It was almost a case of “out of sight, out of mind” for most of them.
So we changed tack and tried a new approach. We undertook a detailed piece of work, mapping the Scottish salmon-farming supply chain across the whole of Scotland and then we went out to tell our parliamentary representatives about it.
That mapping exercise was revealing. It showed there are around 3,600 companies in Scotland working with our salmon producers, with many more outside Scotland.
These range from small business service and waste management firms to boat builders and fabricators.
Many show the synergies between sectors. There are 270 businesses in North East Scotland working with salmon farmers, many of these already work with the offshore oil and gas industry or with the caught-fish sector.
There’s a company in Aberdeen supplying oxygen to our farmers in Shetland – oxygen that has been in short supply recently because of the needs of oil rig decommissioning work.
However, even in the Central Belt the supply chain is substantial. There’s obviously the DFDS transport hub at Larkhall, where much of our fish goes before being packed for onward transport, but there are also feed producers, boat builders and innovative tech companies.
In total there are more than 250 in the Lothians, 190 in Glasgow, 150 in Central Scotland and 180 in Mid Scotland and Fife.
The mapping exercise was really instructive for us, but it was eye-opening for MSPs and MPs.
Suddenly parliamentarians who had binned every previous briefing sent to them by the sector were finally sitting up and taking notice.
“You mean it affects me?” they were saying.
Some may think – perhaps uncharitably – that this tells us something not terribly pleasant about the nature of our politicians. I’d argue that it just tells us what we already know about parliamentary democracy.
The only thing that really matters is getting re-elected and that means that the constituency (or, in Scotland, the region) is all important. All we did was tap into that.
Over the last six months we have sent constituency-, regional- and Scottish-wide briefings to every MSP. On the back of that we have arranged visits to supply chain companies in the South of Scotland, in the Lothians, Mid Scotland and Fife.
Other MSPs are being taken out to farms, so interested have they become in the economic effects of salmon farming and its supply chain.
I hope that this will provide the missing piece of the jigsaw. In the past, when salmon farming has come up for debate in the Scottish Parliament, there has been more heat than light.
I hope that by getting more MSPs engaged, by giving them information that they can relate to and by showing what we and our supply chain partners actually do, more MSPs will rise to support us rather than cautiously sitting on their hands, as has been the case too often in the past.
However, there is another side to this. At the same time as the supply-chain lobbying effort was underway, a parallel initiative was going on behind the scenes.
It involved the SSPO talking more closely to key supply chain companies and working out not just where our interests intersected, but what we could do to help further their interests. The result is there to see on our new logo, our new name and our new approach. The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation has gone. Salmon Scotland has risen in its place.
The name change is a reflection of our ambition to represent more than just our producers – although they will always remain at the absolute heart of what we do – it is also an acknowledgement of the modern world.
As the mapping exercise showed, there is not a constituency in Scotland that isn’t touched positively by salmon farming. We have supply chain companies in every corner of this land.
As a result, what we do and, crucially, how we are governed and regulated, matters in every town, village and community.
Our change, from the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation to Salmon Scotland, is an attempt to capture and promote that new reality. It is a logical progression and one we believe will bring greater benefits and security to all involved, but also a clearer and more unified voice.
Salmon is one of the biggest economic drivers in the Scottish economy. Salmon is the UK’s biggest food export and the UK shopper’s fish of choice.
We want every part of the country to feel pride in that record and share in that success.
By becoming Salmon Scotland, we believe we have taken the first big step in making that a reality.