The Crown Estate’s income from the seabed around Shetland should be re-invested in the NAFC Marine Centre, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott believes.
Speaking at a salmon farming seminar in Lerwick he pressed for the immediate devolution of the seabed powers to Shetland.
The income, running into millions of pounds, should be invested for research and support for Shetland’s marine industries, Mr Scott suggested.
He said the Scotland Bill, currently being debated in Westminster, was set to devolve control and income form the seabed to the Scottish government.
He had secured cross party agreement in the Smith Commission to give those powers to Shetland and other island groups who wanted them. The Scottish government was still to fully endorse that approach.
Mr Scott said: “We need to see greater investment to realise the benefits of salmon farming research in Shetland.
“So when the Crown Estate seabed is devolved not just to the Scottish government but to Shetland as I have argued all my political life, there is a notable opportunity.
“The seabed creates income. The salmon farming industry is that income. So I suggest the seabed income should be reinvested in research for the industry at the marine centre.
“The NAFC was built and developed for Shetland’s marine industries. These are challenging times for the public finances. So a new income stream should assist the salmon farming industry in the research it needs.”
Mr Scott said Shetland salmon production was 40,000 tonnes per annum. The industry turnover was £150 million – half the overall seafood value of Shetland.
A total of 270 jobs were directly on farms and 180 in packaging and primary processing, while 1,050 people depended on a healthy and productive salmon industry for their jobs.
Mr Scott added: “Salmon farming matters hugely to Shetland. The Scottish government expects the industry to grow up 50 per cent to produce 220,000 tonnes by 2020.
“That is a tall order when government choses with the other hand, to impose tighter regulation and laws on production.
“So the industry needs to see some recognition of these challenges. A positive step would be to help with the research needs and the seabed income could help.”