The National:

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THE £2 billion salmon farming industry marketed around the world as Scottish is virtually all owned by investors in Norway, Switzerland, Cyprus, Canada and other countries, according to a new analysis by campaigners.

As much as 99% of caged salmon production from Scottish-branded companies operating along the west coast is said to be controlled outwith Scotland. Most of the industry is Norwegian, and one major parent company is registered in Jersey, an offshore tax haven.

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The revelations have promoted angry condemnation from campaigners, who describe Scottish salmon as a “sham” and a “consumer con”. They say it should be investigated for “false” advertising.

The industry, however, stresses the economic benefits it brings to Scotland in jobs, investment and taxes, pointing out that many key Scottish businesses are owned abroad.

The National:

Salmon farming was also strongly defended by the Scottish Government’s rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing.

Three of Scotland’s big six salmon farming firms are owned by Norwegian companies: Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest), Scottish Sea Farms and Grieg Seafood.

Their Scottish premises in Rosyth, Stirling and Shetland were all raided on February 19 by inspectors from the European Commission investigating alleged price fixing in Norway.

Mowi’s largest shareholder is a company registered in Cyprus owned by Norway’s richest man, John Fredriksen.

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Scottish Sea Farms is owned by a complex network of Norwegian firms and Grieg Seafood’s four biggest shareholders are all based in Norway.

The parent company of Scotland’s third largest salmon producer, The Scottish Salmon Company, is registered in Jersey, and listed on the Norwegian Stock exchange in Oslo. Its largest shareholder is a Swiss company, linked to a Ukrainian businessman, Yury Lopatinsky.

The National:

The two other major salmon producers in Scotland are Cooke Aquaculture, which is Canadian, and Loch Duart, which has major shareholders in the US. According to the Scottish Government, these six companies account for 99% of all Scotland’s farmed fish production.

Farmed salmon is Scotland’s biggest food export, earning more than £600 million a year. But in recent years it has been hit by a raft of problems with pollution, disease and sea lice.

The industry has been strongly criticised by two Holyrood committees, and is now facing a regulatory crackdown by the government’s watchdog, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. It remains committed, however, to doubling its business from £1.8bn in 2016 to £3.6bn by 2030 – and is backed by the Scottish Government.

READ MORE: CBI Scotland warns no-deal Brexit threatens £3.9bn in exports

But now a report by Scottish Salmon Watch has assessed the extent to which the industry is foreign-owned. “Scottish salmon is made in Norway, registered in offshore tax havens like Jersey and owned by investors abroad,” said the campaign group’s director, Don Staniford.

“So-called Scottish salmon is a sham and a consumer con. A staggering 99% of salmon farming production in Scotland is controlled by foreign-owned companies.”

Staniford argued that salmon was even less Scottish than the whisky industry, three-quarters of which is reportedly owned abroad. “Well over 200 of Scotland’s 226 salmon farms are not Scottish at all despite their Scottish-sounding names,” he said.

The National:

Scottish Salmon Think Tank, which campaigns against fish farming, says salmon eggs for farms were mostly imported to Scotland from Norway. “It is astounding that foreign-owned salmon companies can still claim their product is Scottish,” said the group’s Lynn Schweisfurth.

She accused companies of using Scotland’s environment to “trick” consumers into thinking they’re eating something authentic. “These companies should have been investigated for false advertising long ago.’’

According to the Scottish Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP, salmon farms’ economic benefits were often used to justify the environmental harm they caused. “One wonders just how much better communities could be supported if the companies that run these farms paid their fair share of tax, rather than cynically locating themselves in tax havens,” he said.

The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), which represents the industry, pointed out that many successful Scottish businesses were owned abroad. “The Scottish salmon industry is as Scottish – and as proud to be Scottish – as The Sunday National newspaper,” said SSPO’s director of strategic engagement, Hamish Macdonell.

“No-one would ever consider The National to be a foreign title just because it has foreign ownership. In the same way, it is ludicrous to consider Scotland’s salmon companies as foreign when they employ so many people in Scotland making a very successful Scottish product.”

Mowi highlighted its major investments in Scotland. “Our 1250 employees work and live in Scotland and provide significant economic activity and tax support to the country,” said Mowi Scotland’s managing director Ben Hadfield.

The company had invested more than £200m in Scotland in 2018, he added. “The money for these ‘built in Scotland’ investments came not just from our Scottish earnings but also from our parent company – effectively putting the wealth back into Scotland and protecting our investment for the future.”

SCOTISH Sea Farms thought it “odd” that it should be criticised for being owned abroad when the same applied to many other companies. “We are every inch a Scottish company with Scottish provenance at our heart, and a significant contributor to the country,” said the company’s managing director, Jim Gallagher.

He listed the company’s contributions to Scotland: 464 livelihoods, £17m salaries, nearly £12m corporation tax and £5m income tax and national insurance contributions. In the last 10 years more than 50% of profits had been reinvested into new technologies, and annually more than £100m worth of business was given to suppliers across Scotland.

The Scottish Salmon Company confirmed that its parent company was registered in Jersey and listed on the Oslo stock exchange. “The Scottish Salmon Company Limited is UK registered and operates solely in Scotland, with over 60 sites and 550 staff in Scotland,” said a company spokesperson. “All our Scottish Salmon is produced in Scotland and is accredited under the European’s Union’s Protected Geographical Indication scheme.”

Grieg Seafood Shetland pointed out that it provided 180 well-paid full-time Scottish jobs. “We are not registered in a tax haven – we are registered in the UK and proudly paying our taxes according to UK law,” said the company’s managing director, Grant Cumming.

“Our Scottish salmon is hatched, grown and harvested by Scottish employees on our farms in Shetland and on the Isle of Skye. As such, it is Scottish salmon.”

Loch Duart confirmed it had “a number” of shareholders. “Control of Loch Duart lies entirely with our board, made up of eight directors, a majority of whom are Scottish, with four working full time in the business,” said managing director, Alban Denton.

“In the past financial year Loch Duart’s shareholders supported the investment of more than £5m in the business. As a significant employer and supplier with a local purchasing policy Loch Duart invests in excess of £25m per annum into Scottish businesses and communities.”

Cooke Aquaculture declined to comment on ownership.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, described salmon as one of Scotland’s success stories. “To suggest that because some of the major companies which are helping to generate all this economic and social benefit for Scotland are overseas-owned somehow diminishes the value of that contribution is nonsensical and panders to unsavoury notions about who is welcome here.”

She added: “What matters is how ownership is used, not which nationality the owners are. Just because the owners are not Scottish does not mean that they cannot respect and value Scotland and their workforce.

“Indeed this seems to be a strange kind of attitude from people who would utterly condemn a view that non-Scottish workers were not welcome.”

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