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The tsunami of criticism of the Scottish Government proposals reached even higher and further during week as the aquaculture sector spoke out about its concerns on the impact of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which would see around 10 per cent of coastal waters around Scotland closed to human activity.

The trade body for Scottish salmon wrote to all three First Ministerial candidates to seek continued support for the sector and to raise concerns about proposed ban on marine activity in stretches of water.

It is predicted that the result of the SNP Leadership election will be announced at 2pm on Monday (March 27).  

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott urged the MSPs to recognise the economic contribution of salmon farms, address the nation’s rural housing crisis, and take action to streamline the aquaculture licensing regime.

Addressing the consultation currently under way on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), Mr Scott said a “thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities is essential”.

SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has pledged to scrap the proposal, and has also said she would consult on which of Marine Scotland’s statutory responsibilities could be “more effectively delivered by local authorities”.

Mr Scott welcomed her comments and said: “Kate Forbes looks open minded on further reforms and if she becomes our First Minister we would welcome an early discussion with her on these important policy developments and how they could benefit the sustainable growth of the sector.”

In his letter to all candidates, Mr Scott wrote: “As a key contributor to the economy, our sector recognises the importance of collaboration and dialogue with government.

In his letter to Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf, Mr Scott wrote: “We have enjoyed an excellent working relationship with your colleague Mairi Gougeon, who has been a tireless champion for Scottish salmon. 

“We look forward to the decision that your party will make and Parliament in appointing a new First Minister and ministers. 

“Scottish salmon adds £760 million-a-year to the country’s economy, we are the UK’s biggest food export, and the sector employs more than 2,500 people in fragile, coastal communities across rural and island Scotland, with a further 10,000 Scottish jobs dependent on the supply chain."

On HPMAs, Mr Scott wrote: “Your government is currently consulting on designating 10 per cent of Scotland’s coastal waters as HPMAs. 

“We ask that government thoroughly consider the social and economic impacts of this policy on the sectors, industries and communities that operate in Scotland’s coastal regions, as well as those that are impacted across Scotland, through the supply chain. 

“That is yet to happen and if government does proceed with this policy, a thorough understanding of the impact on business, livelihoods and communities is essential.”

Addressing the rural housing crisis, he wrote: “We would like to work with the Scottish Government to address the provision of adequate and affordable housing, infrastructure, and services for rural communities.  

“Our farming companies already provide accommodation for employees and their families, but many staff simply cannot find homes near their work. 

“We propose that £10 million of the rents paid by salmon farmers to Crown Estate Scotland be ringfenced for direct investment in rural housing. We would be delighted to discuss this with you.”

HPMA consultation: https://consult.gov.scot/marine-scotland/scottish-highly-protected-marine-areas/