The Scottish Government has signalled its support for a radical shake-up of aquaculture licensing.

The report from Professor Russel Griggs OBE, following his review of the regulatory regime for aquaculture in Scotland, was published yesterday. Today, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “This is a comprehensive piece of work by Professor Griggs… I welcome the ambitious range of recommendations he has made and we accept them all in principle.”

She added: “Aquaculture is a significant contributor to our rural economy, providing well paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile communities and will be an essential part of our green recovery and transition to net zero.”

The Scottish Government would “take a short amount of time” to consider the proposals, she said.

Gougeon also made it clear, however, that reforms to the licensing framework would reflect the co-operation agreement between the ruling Scottish National Party and the Green Party, which has signalled its hostility to open net-pen fish farming.

The proposals include streamlining the approval process for aquaculture with a single consenting document and a single licensing payment, with the amount payable to be based on tonnage.

A new framework for the sector’s regulation will be based on the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Vision for Aquaculture, and once that is introduced it is likely to mean that the permission for existing as well as new farms will be reviewed.

Professor Russel Griggs

In his introduction to the report, Professor Griggs noted: “The degree of mistrust, dislike, and vitriol at both an institutional and personal level between the industry (mainly finfish), certain regulators, parts of the Scottish Government and other stakeholders is at a level that I have never seen before which makes the current working relationships within the sector challenging.”

In today’s statement, however, he was more diplomatic, saying: “It is clear that while there is a broad range of views on aquaculture there is also a lot of commonality in certain aspects so it is an industry which faces significant opportunities as well as challenges.”

He added: “I firmly believe that this process I am recommending will deliver a regulatory landscape that promotes a thriving environmentally and economically sustainable sector based on the best knowledge we have on all issues at that time.”

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