Scottish ministers have had more than 30 meetings with leaders of the fish farming industry in the last three years, prompting accusations that they are “in cahoots” with the industry and failing to protect the environment.
Public agencies have also disclosed that they gave the go-ahead to more than 750 fish farms in recent years, but only refused consent in six cases. The farms are being “rubber-stamped”, allege critics, to help boost production 50 per cent by 2020 in line with the government’s target.
In response to a request under freedom of information law, the Scottish government has released a list of meetings between ministers and the fish farming industry. It shows that since January 2011 successive environment ministers have met with fish farm companies 26 times, including eight site visits, four dinners, two awards ceremonies and an industry exhibition at Trondheim in Norway.
Three meetings with the enterprise minister, Fergus Ewing, in 2012 and 2013 are also on the list. And it says that in June this year, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, opened a fish hatchery run by the Norwegian-owned company, Marine Harvest, at Lochailort in Lochaber.
According to an official press release, Salmond also met with Marine Harvest bosses in Oslo in May 2012 - but this was not included in the list released by the Scottish government. Officials admitted that this was due to an “administrative oversight”.