A refusal to accept plans for economic development is threatening job creation in the Scottish Highlands, according to Gael Force Group Managing Director Stewart Graham, who says that Scotland has become “anti-development, anti-business.”

His views are set out in an article, written in response to the decision not to grant planning permission for a new fish farm on Skye. Graham says that Gael Force, which supplies marine equipment and technology to the finfish aquaculture sector in the UK and Canada, has seen the loss of more than 20 jobs following the cancellation of a new farm site that was to have been built for independent salmon farmer Organic Sea Harvest (OSH) at Balmaqueen.

OSH operates two sites off Skye and had applied for permission to operate a third. In January, the proposal was rejected in a narrow vote by the Highland Council’s North Planning Application Committee.

Graham asks: “How can we call for building back our economy and protecting jobs, yet fail to support compliant job-creating planning applications?”

He also compares the attitude of a vocal minority opposing economic development in the region to the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries, which saw farming communities evicted from the land to further the interests of landowners.

Graham writes: “Like the Clearances, once again the welfare of the local people who work the land and the sea is being considered as secondary to the narrow interests of a minority, often not rooted in the area, who care not for the economic wellbeing of other local people.”

He concludes: “If we do not see a change of behaviour in the support of development and growing the economy by all of us, we will be a failing nation, with rural areas becoming very largely inactive economically; a playground for tourists, who are very welcome but who come and who go. A place again, where the will of the few suppress the opportunity of the many. If we do not change direction, we will leave no fine place, which in rural Scotland it should be, to raise a young family as our legacy.”

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