Changing of the Guard at SSPO

An Interview with Scott Landsburgh

This will be my last post as Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation. I am retiring this week, passing the reins on to Julie Hesketh-Laird. I know she will be much more than a safe pair of hands and I wish her every success in this role.

As my successor, I know she will face both continued and new challenges. The 10 years I have spent at the helm have rarely been plain sailing but I can say without qualification that they were always interesting!

She comes in at a challenging time for the industry, and I will support her in any way I can in my remaining time here. From guiding the industry through the ongoing Parliamentary Inquiry to engaging in new initiatives like the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group and the Strategic Framework for Farmed Fish Health, her inbox will be full for the foreseeable future.

It was much the same for me. 10 years ago, we faced problems like amoebic gill disease in some of our fish stocks, static production levels and plateauing sales both at home and abroad. The industry was in perhaps even more of a ‘transitional’ state than now, with fast-moving consolidation of the producer companies. It was a baptism of fire and I had to learn the ropes quickly. Then, as now, climate change was impacting upon the marine environment and we had to grapple with challenges beyond our immediate control.

The industry then embarked upon a period of major investment in technology. Growth in production and sales, amongst a number of successes, soon followed. This has led to its emergence as the UK’s largest food export. In that time, we have been able to maintain our position as the world’s third largest producer of farmed salmon. We may not be (quite) the biggest but we are certainly amongst the best when it comes to global producers. I would love to see this continue in to the future, provided that growth is achieved sustainably and responsibly, a view shared by the industry as a whole.

Phil Thomas, Chairman of SSPO for much of my tenure, was always incredibly supportive of me and brilliant at filling in gaps in my technical knowledge, particularly in the early days. Likewise, Gilpin Bradley, our current Chairman, has been steadfast in his support of me and we have had an excellent working relationship. Jim, Ben, Craig, Alban and Colin – the other Board Members – have all helped to make my time at SSPO memorable!

It is hard to pick out just one highlight. There have been the outstanding year-on-year export results which generated great positivity and show the excellent work we are doing as an industry. There have been the trips to some far-flung places both to promote our product and to understand better how salmon farming works across the globe. I’ve been to salmon farms in Chile and huge conference centres in China, meetings in Norway, Nova Scotia and New England, and many, many excursions to the Highlands and Islands, which, on a clear day, are home to some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. I’ve been to the world’s most populous city (by most estimates), Tokyo, to promote the industry. Visiting this spellbinding metropolis stands out as an experience – I still can’t believe such an enormous, densely populated place can be so quiet and civilised! These trips and many in between have been awe-inspiring and unforgettable.

I have met some amazing, inspirational people throughout my tenure and the things I learned from them will remain with me when I leave. The people I work with on a day to day basis, both the very able, intelligent, diligent staff at SSPO and the dedicated representatives of our Member companies, have kept me on my toes throughout and made the journey worthwhile. I have enjoyed and valued their expertise and working with them has been a privilege. I sincerely hope to keep in touch with all of them when I leave.

The time has come for a new chapter now, however. The challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the industry are for others to take on and I wish them all the best. Other challenges (both on and off the golf course!) are calling but I’ll still keep my eyes peeled for ‘salmon farming updates’ as I embark upon the next stage of my life!