Scottish Salmon Company expects to cut jobs in islands

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has announced that it is reviewing its harvesting and processing requirements in Stornoway and expects to have to cut jobs in the spring of 2013.

A consultation process has begun with staff to explore options to redeploy people where possible or offer assistance to find alternative employment.

The company has not been able to secure planning permission for additional sites, such as at Toa Tolsta and Plocrapol, in the timescales thought possible when investing the £3m in its new factory and without consistent year-on-year volumes from a balanced farming operation the processing facility cannot be operated efficiently.

In addition, biological challenges in 2012 have impeded the growth of the salmon and impacted on the volumes available in 2013.

However, SSC expects to have more volume towards the end of 2013 and into 2014 when fish from its new site in Highland region are ready to be harvested. The company is also pursuing new planning consents at other locations in the Western Isles and the mainland, which would secure the levels of production needed for its Marybank and Arnish facilities to work at full capacity in the longer term.

Despite this temporary setback, The Scottish Salmon Company’s investors have given their unwavering support to the company’s long term plans and remain committed to building a sustainable business in the Western Isles.

Stewart McLelland, SSC’s chief executive, said:

“We deeply regret this situation, but hope that we can reassure local communities that once more sites start to produce fish, we will once again have the volumes that make full production at Marybank and Arnish viable again.

“Despite our best efforts to correct the imbalance of production cycles across the company’s operation, we have not been able to establish and develop new sites as originally expected within the necessary timescales. This process of expansion continues but, for the moment, there is now a time lag before sufficient numbers of next generation of fish can be harvested and processed through Marybank.

“Coupled with this is the fact that our fish were affected by Amoebic Gill Disease. This naturally occurring amoeba which impacts fish health is exacerbated by warm weather and a lack of rain and, like many in the industry we were affected at a critical time last summer.

“Finally, the uncharacteristically low market price for salmon in 2012 meant that our income has been reduced. When combined with insufficient fish to process, it is another reason why we cannot operate Marybank, in the short term, without cutting jobs.”

The Scottish Salmon Company which currently employs over 380 people in its operations along the West Coast of Scotland, embarked on an investment plan to find 10 new sites in 2010. Two consents have been awarded in Highland and Argyll and the company is currently consulting on planning applications in Harris and another in Argyll.

Stewart McLelland added: “The Comhairle has demonstrated its support of aquaculture development in the region and we are in the very fortunate position to have the total commitment of our investors. These two factors mean we can look forward with confidence.

“We all believe in Scottish salmon farming and have made great strides to promote and export a high quality, sustainable product successfully into domestic and overseas markets. We remain committed to making The Scottish Salmon Company a business all our stakeholders can be proud of.”

Western Isles politicians said the news was obviously a cause of concern to many of the families who depend on the company and that it was now important that public agencies and the company work together to ensure that as many of these jobs as possible could be reinstated over time.

Alasdair Allan commented: “Clearly this news has an impact on the lives of many people in the islands and comes in the midst of what are already economically difficult times. I will be speaking today to Stewart McLelland, CEO of the Scottish Salmon Company, and will also be in touch with Enterprise Minister, Fergus Ewing about this subject.

“The company has indicated that it intends this reduction in the workforce to be temporary and it is now obviously in everyone’s interest that we all work together to make sure that the company is in a position to start taking people on again as soon as possible.

“I have a meeting with Mr McLelland arranged shortly where I will be raising these issues and am more than willing to meet with any individual who is concerned about their circumstances.”

Angus MacNeil commented: “It is obviously concerning that the Scottish Salmon Company have begun a consultation process on job losses. I understand that the current difficulties are due to the lack of available volumes this year and the Amoebic Gill Disease, which affected many in the Salmon farming industry.

“It is however pleasing that there is a long term commitment to continue production and processing in the Western Isles.

“Again, we realise how important the salmon farming sector is in these islands.

“We should all be aware that the best quality salmon in the world probably comes from the Hebrides and the Scottish Salmon Company is at the forefront of this and also in providing much needed employment in our islands.”