I absolutely accept that some people said that the precautionary principle was being followed. However, as a generality, more people said that it was not than that it was.
Our report does not support a business-as-usual approach, and I do not believe that that is what the Government or industry should be promoting.
Before I finish, I feel that it is incumbent on me, as convener, to highlight the committee’s concerns about the leaks to the media that occurred as we were considering our draft report. Those leaks were clearly identified by the media outlet concerned as having come from a member of the committee, and they were sustained over several weeks; indeed, a journalist showed me private papers from a committee meeting that had been circulated to members only an hour or so before I was approached. The member who leaked the papers and made comment did so knowing that it was unlikely that they would be identified. Their actions significantly delayed the committee’s consideration of the draft report. However, worse still, they caused a level of mistrust within the committee regarding private papers and private discussions.
Although leaks are, of course, a matter for the code of conduct, unless a member is identified, no action can be taken. As convener of the committee, and as a firm believer in the importance of the integrity of the Parliament, I believe that the incident was totally unacceptable. Therefore, I suggest that the Parliament should consider strengthening the code of conduct in this area.
I have made no public comment on the unsubstantiated personal attacks that were made as a result of the leaks, and I will not do so now, but I want to say something directly to the person who leaked the private papers and made the comments to the press: you should reflect carefully on what you have done, because I believe that you have let the Parliament down, you have let the committee down and, perhaps more importantly, you have let yourself down.
I have mentioned some of the key points in the report. There are many other issues that I am sure will be picked up and discussed by other members. We have a real opportunity to build on the broad support that the committee’s report received, but we need to be clear that it and the ECCLR Committee report do not support business as usual, therefore neither should the Government or the industry. To do so would be to disadvantage Scotland and our salmon producers, damage our reputation as a quality food producer and potentially harm the environment.
I look forward to what I hope will be a lively and progressive debate.
That the Parliament notes the conclusions in the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s 9th Report, 2018 (Session 5),
Report on Salmon Farming in Scotland
(SP Paper 432).