Salmon farms, aquaculture, bring £885m, 11,700 jobs

The aquaculture sector — dominated by salmon farming — contributed £885 million to the Scottish economy and supported 11,700 jobs in 2018, according to new research.

The Marine Scotland commissioned report – ‘Estimation of the Wider Economic Impacts of the Aquaculture Sector in Scotland’ – estimates the economic impact of aquaculture is widely felt beyond the industry.

It is an important provider of employment in rural Scotland and wages are often higher than other industries, with salmon production salaries averaging £43,000.

Scottish salmon represents the UK’s largest food export by value. 

The report also found:

  • aquaculture contributed £94.1 million in taxes paid to local, Scottish and UK Governments in 2018
  • the aquaculture sector spent £1.4 billion on supplies and capital investments in 2018, with the majority (76%) of these goods and services purchased from within Scotland
  • the majority of this impact came from salmon farming and the processing of aquaculture products
  • staffing costs accounted for 12% of the turnover of the aquaculture sector – £185 million in 2018

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Aquaculture is a key industry for Scotland and this report reaffirms just how vital it is.

“Our number one food export, it creates many thousands of highly paid, highly skilled jobs, many in our most remote and fragile communities and contributes directly to the public purse in taxes.

“Not least given the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit is having, the Scottish Government will continue its efforts to support the sector and its supply chain in Scotland.

“The sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry is imperative moving forward and is an important element of the Blue Economy model.

“We will work with industry to drive improvements in research and innovation to deliver further sustainable growth with all the economic benefit that brings.”

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) Director of Strategic Engagement Hamish Macdonell said: “Salmon farming not only keeps most remote communities thriving but it has a key role to play, as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Producing a healthy, nutritious, high-protein food with low carbon and low water use, Scotland’s salmon farmers now have the potential to lead the green recovery which will be at the heart of our economic revival over the next few years.”

Yesterday, Tavish Scott, the former Scottish Government minister and Shetland MSP, was ppointed as the new chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO). 

Scott has been Scottish Rugby’s head of external affairs since leaving the Scottish Parliament in July 2019.  

The Scottish salmon farming industry has suffered reputational damage in recent years amid allegations of animal cruelty and environmental damage.

Scottish salmon exports rose 22% in 2019 to a record high of £618 million, according to the UK Government’s HMRC. The tonnage exported increased 26% to over 94,000 tonnes.

Scott succeeds Julie Hesketh-Laird, who leaves the SSPO at the end of September.