Salmon Scotland warns next UK Prime Minister over potential trade war with Europe

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Salmon Scotland, the trade body for the Scottish salmon industry, has written to Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak ahead of a hustings in Perth to call for government action to support vital growth.

Farm-raised Scottish salmon is the UK’s biggest food export, supporting 12,000 jobs – many in rural and isolated areas of the country. However, despite growing worldwide demand for the high-protein fish, the labour pool has shrunk in recent years with many key workers returning to eastern Europe post-Brexit.

This is combined with ongoing concerns that changes to the Northern Ireland protocol could lead to retaliatory action by the EU, causing increased friction at the border, delays and queues for hauliers crossing to France, or extra costs for exporters.

“Our businesses are vital to the economic performance of the UK – not only in economically fragile coastal and rural areas, but across the length and breadth of the country in processing, engineering, science and technology industries,” Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, told the leadership candidates.

Salmon Scotland is calling on the next Prime Minister to embrace a “more enlightened approach to the movement of labour into the UK”, including a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level, and a broader public signal that the UK is open to people coming here to work.

“No change to the current UK Government approach and the attitude in particular of the Home Office is a clear threat to business competitiveness against our main international competitors. We would urge a more pragmatic and business friendly approach,” Scott stated.

The trade body also demanded a “serious, pragmatic approach” to negotiations with the EU, avoiding a so-called ‘trade war’, with a “clear focus on the nation’s export businesses who depend on a positive, professional relationship with France and the other countries of the EU”.

“No UK export business needs a trade war or even any such suggestion between the UK and the EU,” Scott concluded.

Scottish salmon exports recovered to near-record figures in 2021, increasing to £614million – up 36 per cent compared to 2020 and only marginally below the £618million recorded in 2019. Exports were shipped to 52 different markets last year, with growth across 10 of the top 20 markets.