The oft repeated mantra of the Scottish aquaculture industry is that it is the most heavily regulated aquaculture industry in the world. Certainly the complexity of the system was highlighted beautifully some time ago when our company decided to go for you should not be in breach of the law, particularly that which pertains to the environment.
However, the law changes and knowing all facets that exist and factor
We realised we were not alone when the industry decided to hire a company that researches these matters and keeps you up to date.
To have to hire a specialist company in order to keep up with the law is a very worrying development.You see, for me, the law is next to useless if the average man cannot understand it.
The largest problem is that society feels that every bad thing that happens must have someone to blame and a law should be made to stop it happening again. Each time a law is created, it impacts on other laws and so on.
So we become ruled by more and more complex law which few but lawyers can understand. So we need more lawyers to explain the law, and also to help us decide whether we need more law or how to implement new law.
We have reached a situation where the more lawyers there are, the more lawyers we need.
What makes this problem even worse for farmers is that we are ruled by an urban orientated government (both Westminster and Holyrood) that does not really understand aquaculture, and they in turn are forcefully guided by the EU, another urban orientated form of government.
I remember well when my Orkney farm manager (of my sheep, not to look at farm practice. On being asked how many hours he worked, Geordie replied 24.
Incredulous, the inspector asked why and Geordie replied that lambing ewes don’t have a clock.The inspector said that he could not put that down on the form. For the rest of the interview, quite reasonably, the only response the inspector got was:‘Write down whatever you want.’
So here we are with a government that continues to make law more people and faces enormous climatic challenges to also operate in a complex legal framework.
I know it is the province of the older to think that life was easier or better when we were young and maybe this is so, but I still feel strongly than we did.
- ing the environment. As I have said for a long time, if you want to ensure no change to the environment, don’t leave home in the morning.
Everything that humans do changes the environment. If we had not changed it, the current world population would not be fed.
The critical issue that we face is how we will feed the future generations.The sea has been severely depleted and the land is close to busting point.Two thirds of our planet surface is sea and we have to know how to farm it.To farm it we will have to change it to some degree, just as agriculture has done.
To farm it we will need a government that understands our needs but also we will have to have a more cohesive view of what is required for sustainable aquaculture to thrive.
The one thing that I have noted over a long career is that consolidation of the industry has not led to greater cohesion or long term thinking about what the regulatory framework should look like.
It is time our industry stopped asking the government to sort out regulation and developed a model that we think would work for our long-term sustainable future.
If we do not develop it then the government will continue to react to industry detractors, consultants, ENGOs and their own agencies because if the industry cannot produce a workable formula then they have no alternative. More and more law will be created and the cost to industry will be larger and larger.
While this is a new industry and operates in a new regulatory area, it is not the world’s most complex.The law should be simple to understand and to comply with. As Winston Churchill said: ‘If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all
respect for the law.’