CROWN Estate income from the seabed around Shetland should be reinvested in the NAFC Marine Centre, a salmon farming seminar heard yesterday.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott told the meeting in Lerwick that the Crown Estate revenue, set to be devolved from London to Edinburgh under the Scotland Bill, should be reinvested in the islands’ fish farming, reported the Shetland News.
The SNP government has agreed to devolve the income to Shetland and other island communities as part of last year’s Smith Commission process in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum.
Former Scottish Lib Dem leader Scott said he wanted to see the powers devolved immediately, and claimed the government had yet to ‘fully endorse this approach’.
‘We need to see greater investment to realise the benefits of salmon farming research in Shetland,’ he said.
‘So when the Crown Estate seabed is devolved not just to the Scottish government but to Shetland, as I have argued all my political life, there is a notable opportunity.
‘The seabed creates income. The salmon farming industry is that income. So I suggest the seabed income should be reinvested in research for the industry at the marine centre.
‘The NAFC was built and developed for Shetland’s marine industries. These are challenging times for the public finances. So a new income stream should assist the salmon farming industry in the research it needs.’
Salmon production in the isles amounts to some 40,000 tonnes per annum, and the industry’s turnover is £150 million – half of Shetland’s overall seafood value – while nearly 500 people are employed in the sector.
‘Two hundred and seventy jobs are directly on farms and 180 in packaging and primary processing. 1,050 people depend on a healthy and productive salmon industry for their jobs,’ said Scott.
‘Salmon farming matters hugely to Shetland. The Scottish government expects the industry to grow up to 50 per cent to produce 220,000 tonnes [nationwide] by 2020.
‘That is a tall order when government chooses with the other hand to impose tighter regulation and laws on production.
‘So the industry needs to see some recognition of these challenges. A positive step would be to help with the research needs and the seabed income could help.’