The Economic Impact of Scottish Salmon

An Interview with Scott Landsburgh

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) publishes an Economic Report every year on the performance of the Scottish salmon industry in terms of employment, capital expenditure, employee training schemes, supply chain impacts, exports, community involvement and other key measures of economic impact. It is a comprehensive statistical dissemination of salmon industry operations from year to year, with a strong domestic focus.

As long as I have been in my post as Chief Executive of SSPO, I have always found it a pleasure to publish the report as, by and large, our economic impact has always been a major positive for the communities in which we operate, and has shown continual growth, profitability and expansion in the industry’s employment base.

Rural Economy

The industry’s positive economic impact on rural Scotland is difficult to overstate. We employ over 2,400 people directly at the last count and a further 8,000 to 10,000 indirectly. These are huge figures in what are remote, sparsely populated parts of the country. Total industry gross pay stands at almost £75 million a year. Our position as the 3rd largest salmon-producing country in the world makes us a global player in a growing industry.

And the future looks bright too. The vast majority of our member companies expect to expand their operations and take on additional staff over the next 5 years. With our annual capital investment running at a very substantial £63 million in both 2015 and 2016, we are planning for the long term and are ambitious in setting out a path to sustainable growth.

Exports

Scottish farmed salmon has been Scotland’s number one food export for the past 10 years – my entire tenure as Chief Executive – and is now also the UK’s leading food export. We export to over 50 countries around the world and are constantly looking for new markets to sell to. I intend to cover exports, international trade and Brexit in a separate post at a later date so I won’t go in to much further detail here but it is a reminder that as an industry, we are a major contributor to the prosperity of the nation.

Highlands and Islands

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are not only our ‘spiritual home’ and historic heart; they are the epicentre of our operations and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The cold, clear, pristine waters of the north and west of Scotland provide the ideal conditions for raising and breeding salmon. In the last year, our industry used nearly 2,500 suppliers and services in the region, spending £164 million in the process. This helps provide sustainable, rewarding careers in an historically fragile rural economy, with an unfortunate record of long term population decline. Few industries in the country compare in terms of rural economic impact. Across Scotland, there are 3,400 companies in the supply chain and an industry spend of £390 million.

The industry also takes its social and community responsibilities seriously. Whilst spending over £735,000 annually on community financial support and local causes, the industry goes further with positive initiatives to achieve social objectives. It not only facilitates volunteering and charity work; it champions it. Our Community Engagement Charter is a further demonstration of our commitment to be more than just another employer in the areas we operate in.

Innovation

What many people are perhaps unaware of is the fact that Scottish salmon farming is a vital player in the knowledge economy. Current salmon farming industry investment in research and development is estimated to be worth up to £61 million per annum. Our work with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) is crucial to our efforts to tackle environmental and fish health challenges head on and grow sustainably, and our participation in UK, EU and international research programmes helps us to make the best use of cutting edge technologies and innovative practices as soon as they are ready to be deployed.

Quality

The work we do results in a high quality product of global renown. Scottish salmon has won awards and accolades ranging from French Label Rouge accreditation to being voted (twice) the world’s best farmed salmon by a panel of international seafood buyers. It has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and each salmon is fully traceable throughout its life. Farmed salmon is, by a long way, the UK’s favourite fish in terms of retail purchasing.

Salmon leads many foods in its nutritional values, particularly its Omega 3 content. As a source of protein, the farmed food we produce is comparatively eco-friendly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and very efficient on feed conversion rates. It is affordable too now, thanks to the increased scale of production over the past few decades. As such, it will continue to emerge as a sustainable food source for the world’s growing population.

Continued Success

There are lots of statistics and data on the industry which I have outlined above. But ultimately, I want to take a bigger picture view on our industry that I think transcends all work disciplines and applies to most modern industries. We need to view change as a constant, and in doing so, make sure we adapt quickly but intelligently to new opportunities and challenges. Sometimes that means investing for the future in innovative technologies, science, research and development. Other times, that means recruitment with at least one eye on the future rather than simply meeting current needs, and a genuine, concerted effort to properly train and educate staff on a continuous basis. Education does not end at school, college or university. Lifelong learning is key to increasing workforce productivity, something we in the UK lag behind on.

There are plenty of measures we can take to improve and grow but no one, however, can predict the future and there is no doubt we are living through uncertain times. The continued success of the industry is not guaranteed and I call on all stakeholders to continue their efforts to work together to grow the industry sustainably in to the future. It is only by collaborating, sharing knowledge and being open and honest with each other about how each of us can improve the things we are individually able to control that we can come back in future years with even more positivity and fantastic results.

More information on our latest can be found here Economic Report