The changes also involve removing the Outer Island Discount under which CES offers some protection to areas where there are higher costs of living, labour and logistics. The sweeping changes have come in advance of a report by Professor Russel Griggs which will look at the entire regulatory aspect of the industry as a whole.
Salmon Scotland had previously raised concerns with the Crown Estate Scotland proposals, urging a collective approach which would align with the outcome of the sector review and help to have a holistic approach across decision making to consider the wider consequences and implications made by any policy change.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Scotland’s salmon sector, employing 2,500 direct jobs in coastal and island communities is very disappointed by Crown Estate Scotland’s arbitrary and totally unjustified decision to almost double rents on salmon farms. CES presumably now see salmon like offshore wind – a cash cow to be exploited.
“Our members have paid more than £20 million into CES over the last five years – a charge which is set to almost double under this new framework.
“Scotland’s salmon farmers would be more likely to accept such a steep increase if they could see the benefit in terms of local investment of these charges. But, despite requests, CES have failed to give any indication as to how – or even if – this extra money will actually be used to help local people in the areas where it is raised.”
The Scottish Government have previously stated that they see aquaculture as one of the growth sectors towards Scotland’s food and drink and farmed salmon is now the UK’s top food export.
In his letter to the minister, Mr Scott said: “It is well-documented that our sector makes significant contributions to both the national and local economies of Scotland. What is less well-known is that we are a low-use sector in terms of marine resource.
"Of the c. 200 active sites we farm, fish pens account for less than 170 Hectares of Scottish waters – less than half the size of Edinburgh airport. This is approximately 0.003 per cent of Scottish waters and just 0.02 per cent of the area of seabed covered by the 17 projects of the ScotWind leasing project.”
He added: Over 2,500 of our farmers are located around the west coasts and Highlands and Islands of Scotland – some of the most remote areas of the country, providing jobs and economic activity all year round.
“Our suppliers include over 3,600 companies located throughout Scotland and being part of the fabric of the Scottish economy is something which we are very proud of. It has been key to making us Scotland’s most valuable food export.”
The industry supports around 550 full-time equivalent jobs in the Outer Hebrides.