Letters to the editor – 15.4.21

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Clarity, and parity, needed for our island communities

Open Letter from Robin Currie,
Argyll and Bute Council Leader

The rest of Scotland has now had two updates on the easing of lockdown restrictions – but island communities remain in the dark. This is deeply disappointing.
Following your first announcement on 16th March about plans to exit lockdown, I wrote to the Scottish Government highlighting the questions and concerns of our island communities who had been left unsure, uncertain and completely unable to plan for the future – unlike the rest of Scotland.

I was able to meet with Aileen Campbell MSP, in her role as Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, within a few days and set out the need for fairness and clarity for our islands in terms of updates about changes to restrictions.

However, even after the second announcement on 30th March, there was still no update for our islands. And now, over a week later, and despite updates in the interim about the reopening of schools, they’re still waiting – and it’s not acceptable.

Just like everyone else, the people on our islands are desperate to know when they can reconnect with family and friends. Island businesses are equally frantic to know when and how they can make plans for the weeks ahead.

But, unlike everyone else, our islands are at a complete disadvantage. They still don’t know what is happening, or when. They deserve better. The Scottish Government needs to respond to our islands’ call for clarity and let them, like the rest of the country, start to think and plan ahead.

How can you trust a salmon farmer?

Mark Steward (Scottish Sea Farms) assures Oban Community Council that their three proposed expansions will create 15 new jobs.  Their own planning applications state clearly that NO new jobs will be created at each site.  Four externally contracted staff might be brought in-house –  so NO NEW jobs.

We are bombarded by PR on how wonderful salmon farms are. Tavish Scott says so almost daily with huge expenditure backed by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, while outrageously claiming that opponents are somehow financed to object.

We must judge what to believe from available evidence:

  • Published data on mortalities – an industry-wide average of 26 per cent for 2017’s smolts.
  • Regulators’ belief that a certain level of environmental damage is inevitable and acceptable.
  • Bias in the planning system which means that Argyll and Bute Council has never used potential harm to wild fish as grounds for refusing a farm proposal.
  • Scottish Government’s failure to assess the sea’s capacity to absorb twice the pollution etc by 2030.
  • Constant images of lice-ridden and diseased fish in multiple farms.
  • Slaughter of every cleaner fish after it has done its job.
  • Escapes of 50,000 fish from Carradale during a storm that Mowi promised its farm could withstand.
  • Breaches of SEPA’s seabed environmental standards – and never a fine or prosecution.
  • Discharge of pesticides into the sea.
  • Cynical manoeuvring by the SSPO to cling on to the Acoustic Deterrent Devices that they have been told are illegally harming cetaceans.
  • Three years after a parliamentary inquiry concluded that the status quo was not acceptable, very little has changed, while the industry has received consent for 33,000 tonnes more biomass.

The Scottish Government are as desperate to cling on to outdated, unacceptably damaging, farming methods for economic reasons, to the detriment of everything else.

It is not surprising that the salmon farming companies, whose aim is to maximise profits for foreign owners, are enthusiastically exploiting Scotland while they can.  Their shareholders never see the coast of Argyll or the impacts of the farms. Nor will they care about redundant employees once the profits dry up.

Dennis Archer, Scottish Greens, Oban.