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Closest to home, within the remote villages and towns in which we farm, the sector is often a key employer, providing well-paid, highly skilled jobs year-round – often with highly transferable skills.
The boost doesn’t stop at direct jobs.
With the country’s salmon farmers spending an estimated £600M annually with Scottish suppliers, independent economic analysts predict that every direct job helps support as many as four to five additional jobs across Scotland.
Combined, these direct and indirect jobs help make it possible for younger generations to stay in the communities in which they were raised and others who have left for study or work to return. They also help attract new faces and families to Scotland’s more remote communities.
All of which contributes to there being sufficient pupils and students to keep Scotland’s more remote schools and colleges open; regular passengers to justify the ongoing provision of lifeline ferry services and other essential services; and a steady stream of trade for nearby shops and businesses.
The more remote the community, the more keenly this impact is felt:
"Sanday has 500 people, but a much smaller working age population. The school has 50-55 pupils at any given time, so five or 10 pupils can make a difference: if you lose five, you are 10 per cent down and the island is in decline.”
Resident, Sanday, Orkney
At national level, farmed salmon is Scotland’s largest food export by value and has been for several years now.
In 2020, despite widespread Covid-related disruption to markets and logistics, the country’s farmers exported 72,155 tonnes of fresh salmon with a combined value of £451 million to 53 different countries.
Whilst this total volume was down 27 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, sales have bounced back as markets gradually re-opened post-lockdown, with 50,635 tonnes exported in the first six months of 2021.
That’s up 63 per cent year-on-year and up seven per cent on the same period in 2019, despite the additional challenges presented by Brexit.
Not only is farmed salmon of key importance to the Scottish economy but it also ranks amongst the UK’s most valuable food exports, vying with chocolate and pork for the top spot and positively influencing the nation’s balance of trade.
Domestic demand is similarly strong with farmed salmon – much of it of Scottish provenance – now the UK’s favourite fish, outselling cod, tuna, warm-water prawns and haddock.
Combined, the sector regularly has an annual turnover in excess of £1 billion, contributing millions of pounds to the public purse in terms of corporation tax, income tax and national insurance contributions.
In the case of Scottish Sea Farms alone, payments to HMRC have totalled £76.3 million over the last five years (2016-2020):
paid to HMRC, of which:
£40.4M corporation tax paid
£8.9M NIC and other payments
paid to HMRC, of which: