Fish farming can provide a “springboard” towards Scottish independence by helping to build economic confidence in the nation, an SNP minister has said.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing hailed aquaculture as “one of the most exciting prospects” in Scotland, while predicting it would be “at the heart of tacking climate change” due to its relatively low carbon footprint.
He told a fringe event on the “blue economy” at the SNP conference that the continued success of the industry could help deliver a Yes vote at the next referendum.
Scottish salmon is the nation’s largest food export, hitting record levels last year.
Salmon farming and processing was estimated to be worth nearly £885 million to the economy in 2018, supporting 11,700 jobs, including many in remote areas.
I really see it, and I will be quite unabashed about this, as a key driver of the confidence that is necessary to ensure that when we have that next independence referendum, that we will succeed in that referendum.”
Economic concerns and the ultimate objective…
Critics have continued to argue that the salmon farming sector has had a damaging effect on the local environment, however, including on wild salmon habitats, and proposed developments have often proved controversial in coastal communities.
Mr Ewing said regulatory standards needed to be “correct”, and that innovation would be used to reduce waste-related problems, but added that he believed the industry would have a vital role to play in fulfilling the needs of the world’s growing population for a low-carbon protein supply.
On the Scottish independence debate, he said: “I really see it, and I will be quite unabashed about this, as a key driver of the confidence that is necessary to ensure that when we have that next independence referendum, that we will succeed in that referendum.
“Because let’s think about those people that voted No (in the 2014 referendum), most of them, to some extent, were motivated by economic concerns of one sort or another.
“The more that we can overcome those arguments and build up the confidence, the more I think that we are equipped to win the ultimate objective, which, if you excuse me for being partisan for a moment, this is why we are at this conference.
“And I believe that the link between a strong economy and success in that referendum is a point that really needs to be borne in mind.
“Because I’ve seen the young people and I’ve met them in places like Scalloway, or Lochaline or Portree or Stornoway, and they are all confident young people doing a job that they love doing, where they see they’ve got a great future.”
Mr Ewing added: “Surely that is the kind of springboard of attitude that we want our young people to have in this country, so that they will vote for normality for Scotland when that chance comes around, hopefully fairly soon.”