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by Tavish Scott, Chief Executive Salmon Scotland
17 June 2024
Associate Feature: Leaping into the next 25 years of devolution

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Associate Feature: Leaping into the next 25 years of devolution

For 20 of the first 25 years of the Scottish Parliament, I had the privilege of representing the people of Shetland as their MSP.

I saw – as a government minister, party leader, committee member and backbench MSP – how parliament and government works from the inside, and how it has evolved over the years as Holyrood has matured.

But working outside the Holyrood bubble for the past five years has given me fresh perspective on how our parliament is working for the people of Scotland.

Holyrood has undoubtedly shaped modern Scotland – anyone under the age of 30 cannot remember the time before devolution.

There has been sweeping policy change, but sometimes even well-intentioned policies from Holyrood have fallen short of expectation. 

A year has now passed since the Scottish Government, rightly, ditched plans for highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) which would have halted all economic activity in coastal waters. 

Ministers also belatedly delayed a Scotland-only deposit return scheme and shelved a ban on alcohol advertising which had obviously not taken account of the impact on our colleagues in the whisky sector.

Whisky is the UK’s largest export – and Scottish salmon is the largest food export.

Like may other sectors, we want to see economic growth in Scotland so that we can continue to support thousands of jobs and raise millions in revenue for public services.

But the Scottish Government’s ambition to close the GDP gap with the rest of the UK continues to be frustratingly out of reach.

As we head towards the next Holyrood election in 2026 there needs to be a clearer message from government that Scotland is ‘open for business’.

Of course, our economic performance is also linked to the actions of the UK Government.
At the time of writing, not a single vote has been cast – but businesses have been busy preparing for an incoming Labour administration.

After the election, Scotland’s largest industries certainly hope there will be an improved relationship both between Westminster and Holyrood as well as an improved relationship with Brussels. 

And whichever parties occupy Downing Street and Bute House when the current election cycle comes to end, we urge all politicians to support the continued success of the Scottish salmon sector.

Salmon generates more than £750 million for the Scottish economy and sustains around 12,500 jobs. We could be even stronger – the demand for premium fish from Scotland is considerable and the need for healthy food to feed a growing global population is only going to rise.

By growing salmon, we’re growing Scotland.

But it is important that MSPs get a full picture of the salmon sector, and don’t just listen to a tiny handful of urban-based extremists who want to close farms and deny Scots one of the most nutritious foods they can eat.

And most importantly, politicians must listen to the hard-working farmers – their constituents – who take care of their fish and deliver the highest animal welfare standards anywhere in the world.

The promise of those heady first days of devolution haven’t quite lived up to reality, and 25 years on from the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood’s most important role continues to be to create the conditions for change and growth, not hold back business. There is more to do on this count as we embark on the second quarter-century of devolution.

For our part, we’ll continue to champion Scotland’s democratically elected parliament in Edinburgh and be here to ensure that all our representatives are given the facts about Scottish salmon’s extraordinary success story.

This article is sponsored by Salmon Scotland

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