As I am a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, it gives me great pleasure to take part in the debate.
I support salmon farming in Scotland because it has potential for growth, because it is, in my opinion, sustainable and because of the contribution that it makes to our local communities. It is a Scottish industry that I want to see continue to grow and prosper. Salmon farming will bring increased benefits to Scotland, local communities and local economies.
The growth of the Scottish salmon farming industry started in the 1970s. According to Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the industry has come to be dominated by operators who have companies in several countries, including many productions and job opportunities in Scotland. Aside from jobs growth, it provides 17.5 billion meals each year worldwide, which speaks volumes for its success. It is a leader in the salmon sector along with Norway, Canada and Chile, and Scotland’s salmon is of superior quality.
We have come a long way since the start of the industry. I want it to expand to be a global leader in production, but it must tackle some problems along the way. That is what being a good food provider means. In order to become a European and world leader in the production of salmon, the industry has declared its ambition to double the value of its salmon by 2030. Furthermore, it is currently spending about £400 million a year in Scotland on goods and services. As the industry continues to grow and reinvest, there is clearly an opportunity for Scotland-based businesses, and it is an opportunity not to be missed.
I fully support the industry because it aligns itself with our values. The sustainability report documents that salmon is a sustainable source of protein that leaves less of a carbon footprint than chicken, pork and beef. I did not know that. At present, 20 times more chicken, pork and beef is produced than salmon, but salmon farming in Scotland can contribute to reducing that statistic if it has the support of all who are present here today, which I believe it has.
I am proud that we will continue to support an industry that enriches the lives of the people of Scotland. Following the publication of the two reports by the committees, I suggest that protecting the environment is now one of the top priorities of the industry. SEPA has reported that over 87 per cent of the farms that produce salmon have been categorised as good or excellent. Salmon farms are rightly committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of marine life. With the advance of technology, they should be improving, with new ways of minimising factors that could result in any damage to the sea bed. Technology has reached new heights and it should be used by firms to resolve any local issues.
However, I am here not only to talk about what we can accomplish or what we have accomplished but to present to members the things that we have successfully executed. What the industry has done for our country and what it can do in the future will reflect the best of Scotland. It plays a vital role in enhancing the lives of people in our communities and it creates job opportunities for the people of Scotland, with salaries that tend to be higher than the Scottish average. It not only directly supports local employment but aids indirect jobs across the industry’s supply chain. The industry is vital to Scotland’s growth and must be supported as it continues to grow.
The industry’s ambition is well summarised by what it has done, what it is doing and what it is committed to doing for Scotland, and I would encourage it in that regard. A key element of that is the industry’s social and economic impact. Salmon farming directly employs 1,772 people at freshwater and seawater farms, and aquaculture contributes enormously to the rural economy by supporting 12,000 jobs. More than 1 million salmon meals are consumed in the UK every day—including the cabinet secretary’s meal today. The industry exports to more than 60 countries, and overseas sales are worth £600 million, making Scottish farmed salmon the UK’s most valuable export. Many of the jobs in the industry are helping to support and sustain rural economies, which helps to keep rural schools, post offices, shops and community halls open.
I could go on and on, Presiding Officer, but you are gesturing to me that I cannot do that. My support for the salmon industry is now on the record. I wish it well.