THE Scottish salmon industry has paid tribute to one of its staunchest champions, Tavish Scott, as he stands down from frontline politics.
The former Liberal Democrat leader and MSP for the Shetlands was elected to the first parliament 20 years ago and has long celebrated the impact of aquaculture in his constituency and beyond.
During the salmon farming debate in the Scottish parliament in February, when MSPs discussed the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) committee’s inquiry of 2018, Scott was quick to defend a sector that boosts the economy and local employment.
‘Over the years, the industry has been attacked by big landed interests with fishing rivers and by the Greens,’ said Scott, who is to take up a job as head of external affairs for Scottish Rugby.
He said while the industry had changed overwhelmingly, what has not changed is the number of people who are employed ‘in parts of Scotland who simply would not have jobs if salmon farming did not exist’.
‘Unst, Yell and Fetlar are the best examples of that that I know of anywhere in Scotland. Salmon farming accounts for 110 direct jobs on those islands and any number of hundreds of indirect jobs. Those jobs and the communities on those islands would not exist were it not for that industry.
‘The idea that those people deliberately pollute and deliberately do nothing about the issues of sea lice, mortality and so on is a line of argument that I simply do not recognise.’
Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation general manager David Sandison said: ‘Tavish has been a staunch ally of the salmon farming industry throughout his time representing Shetland in Holyrood.
‘He has always recognised how vital our industry is to the economic and social wellbeing of these islands and indeed the whole of Scotland.
‘He has kept abreast of the tremendous pace of change that our industry has gone through in the 20 years since the parliament came into being and I would wish him well in his new ventures.’
Scottish Sea Farms’ managing director Jim Gallagher said: ‘Throughout his years as MSP for Shetland, Tavish has shown great diligence in engaging with a sector that’s of huge importance to his constituents.
‘Therefore, when he speaks on the subject, he speaks with authority, whether that’s discussing the local jobs supported by the sector, the boost to local skills and training, or the role of salmon farming in helping ensure that those living in remote communities enjoy the same opportunities to prosper as those living on mainland Scotland.
‘As a farmer himself, Tavish also understands the challenges that come with raising livestock of any kind and has invested a lot of time in learning just how much is being done to farm evermore responsibly.
‘We’re hugely sad to see such knowledge leave Scottish politics but wish Tavish every success in his new role with Scottish Rugby.’
Colin Blair, managing director of Cooke Aquaculture, said: ‘For 20 years as Shetland’s MSP, Tavish Scott has been a tireless and diligent representative for his constituency.
‘During that time, Tavish has been a strong advocate of the sector and understood its importance to the Shetland community and the wider UK economy.
‘By immersing himself fully within our sector, he took the time to learn about all aspects of fish farming and visited our facilities on several occasions.
‘His impassioned support during the recent parliamentary debates helped showcase the sector’s innovation and his enthusiasm in the Scottish parliament will be missed.
‘We would like to thank Tavish for his support and wish him all the best in his new role at Scottish Rugby.’