SCOTTISH Government ministers have taken the rare decision to "call in" a planning application to build a new type of fish farm in the waters of Loch Lomond National Park. The plans were rejected last year, but the central government stepped in saying the proposed "new technology ... raises issues of national significance".

The blueprint from Loch Long Salmon divided locals and politicians down atypical lines. While Labour's Jackie Baillie and the Greens' Ross Greer opposed it, the SNP's Angus Robertson and the Tories' Donald Cameron spoke in their favour. 

Here, Loch Long Salmon managing director Stewart Hawthorn argues that his firm's proposals can bring environmental and economic benefits to Scotland's rural areas.

OUR planet is hurtling towards dramatic and uncontrolled human induced climate change and Scotland faces major strategic challenges in the coming decades as we seek to do our part to reduce carbon emissions and tackle this urgent issue.

We must act now and embrace change in everything we do but, sadly, my experience has been of a system that introduces unnecessary setbacks and red tape. We are seeing stagnation, prevarication and delay when we need to be embracing innovation, action and making a difference.

My business is seeking to bring proven semi-closed containment salmon farming technology to Scotland for the first time.

The National: An artist's impression of the semi-closed farming technologyAn artist's impression of the semi-closed farming technology (Image: FiiZK)

Salmon is well known as a low carbon source of healthy animal protein. Switching one or two meals a week from beef to salmon would be good for you and good for the planet. We need to encourage the sector to thrive so that we can make this food choice more available around the world. Scotland can help to reduce the carbon impact of food production while continuing to support a responsible farming sector and fragile coastal economies.

Semi-closed containment technology, also known as at-sea closed containment, allows this carbon friendly food to be produced in a way which further reduces impact, while capturing more than 88% of the solid salmon waste. This can then be used productively in green energy production or as a fertiliser ingredient.

These semi-closed containment farms prevent sea lice, so we never need to use sea lice treatment chemicals or discharge residues into the coastal waterways. The double containment approach prevents seals and other marine predators seeing the fish, so we don’t interact with any marine mammals and this makes salmon escapes almost impossible.

READ MORE: Limit for toxic sea lice chemical increased after industry lobbying

We have found support for this technology from national and local politicians and communities, along with regulators and a number of credible environmental groups who deal in science, not conjecture, and who can see the bigger picture.

Sadly, we have also seen what I might generously call wilful misunderstanding from some others, who claim to be local, despite often living 10s or 100s of miles away. They have no local connection or knowledge, professing concern for an area they don’t know and a sector they don’t understand.

Rather than engaging honestly and openly with us, as we have sought to do, many of these individuals and groups promulgate misleading and oftentimes completely false information to deliberately create fear and confusion. Worse still, they have publicly attacked those who have offered their support to our approach. And they do this while professing to "save" the environment that their blocking activities are putting at peril.

This wilful misunderstanding is leading to stagnation and a lack of progress at time when change is vital.

The National: The location of the proposed fish farm, with the boundaries of the national park shown in darker greenThe location of the proposed fish farm, with the boundaries of the national park shown in darker green (Image: Google/DPEA)

I am realistic and I know that our projects alone will not save the planet. But I also know that these tactics are creating artificial barriers to progress throughout Scotland. This is leading to a lack of action when we can least afford it.

This systematic paralysis can only be broken by people who want change, who want to reduce environmental impact, who want to tackle climate change and the nature crisis. If that’s you, reach out to us, we’d be happy to answer any questions and discuss any uncertainties openly and honestly.

To those who support positive action I say, be vocal, we need you to make your voices heard and show the professional objectors that Scotland is eager to make the change we all know needs to be made.

You can contact Stewart by email at