Scotland’s multi-billion-pound sea-food processing industry needs government help to remove “blockages” to growth, a trade body warned.
The Scottish Seafood Association (SSA), whose members account for a large chunk of a sector employing nearly 6,000 people north of the border, said urgent action was needed to encourage expansion and stop more fish being trucked south for processing in other parts of the UK.
On behalf of its 81-strong membership, up from 67 just 18 months ago, the SSA highlighted issues holding the sector back.
Executive officer Jimmy Buchan, speaking after a “constructive” meeting with Public Finance and Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes at Nolan Seafoods in Aberdeen, said he had urged the Scottish Government to extend a 12-month window for new building business rates exemptions.
A reclassification of premises from industrial buildings to food production units in order to reduce business rates should be explored, he said.
He called for a “level playing field” for large and small companies when it comes to state aid.
Mr Buchan added: “We had a very constructive meeting with the minister, who is genuinely willing to help and recognises the rather unique situation and needs of the sector.
“Ministers have agreed to support focused management to help steer the industry towards a profitable future through innovation and the identification of potential efficiencies.
“For that we are very grateful. However, more work needs to be done, and quickly, to allow our members to expand and prevent greater volumes of fish being trucked directly for processing in other parts of the UK.
“The presently proposed year-long business rate exemption is too short. For processing businesses to have the confidence to invest in new-builds or extensions, three to five years on a sliding scale would be more realistic, given the variations in the availability of raw materials caused by fluctuating TACs (total allowable catches).”