Without change, “we will be a failing nation, with rural areas becoming very largely inactive economically,” says Gael Force Group boss

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Founder of aquaculture equipment supply partner says that he will have to make significant number of redundancies as Organic Sea Harvest fish farm had its planning refused.

In a statement, the founder of Gael Force Group Stewart Graham has written about his frustration at the current state of Scotland’s rural economic development.

He urged a change of behaviour around support for economic development in rural Scotland and a concerted change of behaviour in support of development and a diverse growing economy.

“This would be required to avoid rural areas in Scotland becoming largely economically inactive,” said Stewart Graham.

“Like the Highland Clearances, the welfare of the local people who work the land and the sea is being considered as secondary to the narrow interests of a minority, often not rooted in the area, who care not for the economic wellbeing of other local people. We need to put people, their livelihoods and their wellbeing first,” he said.

He cited the example of a recent decision to refuse planning for an Organic Sea Harvest fish farm at Balmaqueen near Skye, despite being recommended for approval and criticised the “narrowness in consideration and a failure of process and joined-up thinking”.

PHOTO: Organic Sea Harvest (OSH)

Graham said that the development was set to create nine new direct jobs in Skye, and support around twenty jobs at Gael Force. The aquaculture equipment maker has since been forced to make a significant number of redundancies directly relating to the consequential cancellation of orders based on the decision to refuse planning.

“You simply cannot have development without some impact, but neither can you have social progression without economic development. we have become anti-development, anti-business in this country, yet we want all the benefits that depend on a strong, successful and growing economy,” he added.

“How can we call for building back our economy and protecting jobs, yet fail to support compliant job-creating planning applications?” asked Graham.

He encouraged all rural stakeholders including the Government at a local and national level “not only to support development but make sure that they actively seek out and promote economic development opportunities within their areas of responsibility as a minimum.”

“If we do not see a change of behaviour in the support of development and growing the economy by all of us, we will be a failing nation, with rural areas becoming very largely inactive economically,” concluded Graham.