A worsening recruitment situation is seeing one Highland fish farm turn away business opportunities as it struggles to fill vacancies.
Scourie-based Loch Duart is experiencing severe staff shortages, particularly in the last 12 months in the teeth of low local unemployment levels and despite paying above the living wage coupled with subsidised transport.
Specifically, the salmon farm is looking for 10 people earning a £23,000 salary plus bonus and with the opportunity for line operatives to be promoted to team leader within six months.
But despite the relatively generous wages on offer the company, which currently employs 160 staff in the Western Isles, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, is being frustrated by not being able to recruit enough employees.
In a bid to ramp the increasingly pressing issue up the political food chain, Loch Duart invited local MP and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford to its Dingwall fish packaging plant to discuss the staffing crisis and stress it was losing business as a result of recruitment pressures.
We are unable to recruit locally.”
Loch Duart Dingwall processing director Russell Leslie said: “It was a good opportunity for the SNP Westminster leader to come to the site and see first-hand the struggles the company, like others, faces in recruiting staff.
“It also gave Loch Duart the chance to highlight the need for more to be done to ease labour shortages across Scotland.
“The Loch Duart processing plant is currently turning away opportunities because we are unable to recruit locally.
“There are real opportunities for development in jobs like those at our Dingwall factory.”
For his part Mr Blackford added: “The company has ambitions to grow and be an integral part of the local economy but it is clear to me it is being held back by inflexible immigration policies that are hampering the ability of the company to recruit foreign workers to complement the current locally based workforce.
“I will be seeking a meeting with UK government ministers to push for a relaxation of rules to allow overseas workers to come and work for Loch Duart to support the company in its growth ambitions.”
Loch Duart salmon used by Marcus Wareing in Michelin-star restaurant
The company, whose salmon featured on the Buckingham Palace menu for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding, spent £2m buying and refurbishing the factory in 2020 with the Loch Duart plant now featuring the British Retail Consortium AA Grade certification.
Loch Duart, whose products have also featured in establishments such as the two-star Midsummer House in Cambridge and used by chefs such as Marcus Wareing in his Michelin-star restaurant in London’s The Berkeley Hotel, launched an online shop for home delivery earlier this year.
The company produces more than 6,600 tons of salmon each year from its farms in Sutherland and the Outer Hebrides.