Salmon farmers are calling for £10million-a-year in licence fees to be reinvested in affordable housing to tackle the growing property crisis in rural Scotland.
Salmon Scotland has launched a campaign to overhaul the current system so that the millions sent to Crown Estate Scotland in Edinburgh are instead directly ringfenced for coastal areas where farms operate. This would be similar to the system in Norway where rents are used to benefit local communities.
New analysis by Salmon Scotland shows that average home prices in areas where salmon farms operate have risen more sharply than the national average, while the average time it takes for local councils to provide housing assistance has soared. The lack of available, affordable housing is affecting the ability of people to live and work in Highland and Island communities.
Salmon farming contributes more than £5m directly to Crown Estate Scotland (CES), or more than a fifth of the quango’s revenues, with this fee set to nearly double. Salmon Scotland is, therefore, calling for government reform to ensure that around £10million is reinvested in rural communities, with a particular focus on housing.
Noemi Lorenzo-Vidaña started work as a seawater health manager and veterinarian at Mowi Scotland earlier in 2022. She and her partner searched for months for affordable and reasonable accommodation near Fort William, without success, forcing her to commute from Aberdeen on a weekly basis.
“The biggest challenge, and most stressful, has been finding accommodation. The search has been very discouraging because it is affecting me not only on a personal level, but also on a professional level,” Lorenzo-Vidaña said.
““It’s difficult to be able to put all my energy into work when my situation is so unclear. I really hope I can live and contribute to the local community very soon,” she added.
“Rather than this money going into a central pot in Edinburgh, seabed rents paid to the Crown Estate should be returned to benefit our coastal communities,” Salmon Scotland Chief Executive Tavish Scott said.
“The most pressing crisis facing our Highland and Island communities is the complete lack of access to available, affordable housing. So we’re calling for the money raised through salmon farm rents to be re-invested in local communities to address the biggest issue affecting our coastal communities – access to affordable housing,” Scott said.
“Crown Estate Scotland’s net revenues are passed to the Scottish Government for investment in a range of public services including supporting vulnerable coastal communities. From 2017 to 2020, more than £28m was passed by Scottish Government to coastal local authorities to support COVID-19 recovery projects, economic regeneration and job creation, flood protection, environmental projects, and more,” a spokesperson for Crown Estate Scotland said.