Salmon farmers are calling for £10million-a-year in licence fees to be reinvested in affordable housing to tackle the growing property crisis in rural and island communities in Scotland.
Trade body Salmon Scotland has launched a campaign to overhaul the current system so that the millions sent to Crown Estate Scotland in Edinburgh are instead directly ringfenced for coastal areas where farms operate.
This would echo the system in Norway where rents are used to benefit local communities.
Islands and coastal communities have suffered disproportionately in rising house prices with many properties being bought up as second homes and holiday lets. This skews the local housing market and prices local workers out of being able to afford a place to live, creating a severe housing problem.
From 2004 to 2022 average house prices have increased more sharply in most rural areas than the Scottish average.
- In Argyll and Bute, it has increased from £84,084 to £199,179 a rise of 137%.
- In the Highlands it has increased from £80,625 to £210,958 up 162%.
- In Orkney, it has increased from £61,029 to £184,333, up 202%.
- In Shetland, it has increased from £56,474 to £178,358, up 216%.
- In the Western Isles, it has increased from £52,359 to £160,941, up 207%.
Salmon Scotland say that this shortage of affordable housing is affecting their ability to fill key vacancies in their sector. They state that £20million per year is soon expected to be paid by salmon farmers to various regulators and quangos.
See also: The Wealth of Second Home Ownership
At present, salmon farming contributes more than £5m directly to Crown Estate Scotland (CES), or more than a fifth of the quango’s revenues, with this fee set to nearly double. CES overall revenues are expected to soar from £26million in 2021-22 to £102million in 2022-23 due to ScotWind offshore licensing fees.
Net CES revenues are currently handed to the Scottish Government and redistributed across the country, however Salmon Scotland believes that a greater share of aquaculture contributions should be ringfenced to support coastal communities.
The trade body is therefore calling for government reform to ensure that around £10million is reinvested in rural communities, with a particular focus on housing.
A recent independent review of aquaculture regulation in Scotland by Professor Russel Griggs recommended a new single licencing payment for the sector, which he said should “address community benefit as well” – echoing the set-up in Norway.
Scottish salmon generates more than 2,500 jobs across the Highlands and Islands, and the sector plays a key role in attracting people to come and live and work in coastal communities, while also retaining locals to help to tackle de-population.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of Salmon Scotland, said:
“The farm-raised Scottish salmon sector creates jobs and wealth right across Scotland, but we believe our neighbours – the people who live closest to our salmon farms – should be the ones who benefit the most.
“Rather than this money going into a central pot in Edinburgh, seabed rents paid to the Crown Estate should be returned to benefit our coastal communities.
“The most pressing crisis facing our Highland and Island communities is the complete lack of access to available, affordable housing.
“So we’re calling for the money raised through salmon farm rents to be re-invested in local communities to address the biggest issue affecting our coastal communities – access to affordable housing.
“Salmon farmers are embedded in their local communities and want the economic benefit generated by Scotland’s biggest food export to be shared in the local communities where they operate.”
See also: Salmon Farms to be hit by Rent Increases