UK prime minister hopefuls approached by worried Scottish salmon sector

Salmon Scotland Chief Executive Tavish Scott

Salmon Scotland has written to the two remaining candidates vying for the position of prime minister of the United Kingdom, which will be chosen by the U.K.'s Conservative Party, to underline the sector’s concerns regarding labor shortages and a potential trade war.

Salmon Scotland Chief Executive Tavish Scott wrote to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak ahead of the Perth hustings on 16 August to urge government action to support the sector.

Despite growing worldwide demand for salmon, the U.K.'s labor pool has shrunk in recent years, with many key workers returning to Eastern Europe post-Brexit, according to the letter. There are also ongoing concerns that changes to the Northern Ireland protocol could lead to retaliatory action by the E.U., causing increased friction at the border, delays and queues for truck drivers crossing to France, or extra costs for exporters.

Salmon Scotland is calling on the next prime minister to embrace a “more-enlightened approach to the movement of labor” into the U.K., including a change to key worker definitions, changes to the salary cap level, and a broader public signal the country is open to people coming to work.

The trade body also wants a “serious, pragmatic approach” to negotiations with the E.U., 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 E.U.”

“Our businesses are vital to the economic performance of the U.K. – 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," Scott wrote.

In regard to the labor problems, Scott said the status quo choice is no longer an option for the Scottish salmon sector.

"No change to the current U.K. government approach and the attitude in particular of the Home Office is a clear threat to business competitiveness against our main international competitors," he wrote.

On trade war fears, Scott insisted that maintaining and enhancing the sector’s export position to the E.U. and wider European markets was of considerable importance to its businesses, and that any escalation of E.U.-U.K. negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol is a threat to the industry.

“No U.K. export business needs a trade war or even any such suggestion between the U.K. and the E.U.,” he wrote.

Scottish salmon is the United Kingdom’s top fresh food export, with international sales in the first half of 2022 valued at GBP 280 million (USD 339.6 million, EUR 330.2 million), with France accounting for more than half of the total. However, compared with the same period of last year, these sales (incorporating both E.U. and non-E.U. exports) were down by around 8 percent, which Salmon Scotland said was due to challenges posed by both Brexit and the COVID pandemic.

Photo courtesy of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO)


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