CHRIS Packham’s objections to the caged salmon industry in Scotland are pertinent, but I think the status of that industry raises bigger questions (Packham calls for a halt to Scots salmon farming expansion, Dec 12). Why does it enjoy the almost unqualified support of Scottish Government ministers? There is a qualification that expansion must be “sustainable”, but that can be easily fudged.

So why are ministers so supportive? It’s all down to jobs, in particular in supposedly “remote” areas. Remarkably, the caged-salmon industry appears to be one of the main planks of government economic development policy, and continues to receive public funding.

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Why are these areas considered “remote”, when the distances aren’t that extreme? They seem remote because we have such lousy transport infrastructure, relying on ferries instead of tunnels, and main road routes with single-track sections eg try the journey from north Skye to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness (the A9 is a joy in comparison). Quaint for visitors but rubbish for residents, some of whom decide to move away, leading to depopulation.

Why is this? Because local authorities are strapped for cash. Why is that? Because Scotland is part of the UK’s useless neoliberal economic model, where market forces run riot and financial services (including a banking sector which has learnt little from the 2008 crash) are the chosen vehicle for growth. According to this model, the private sector can do no wrong, until it does, and has to be bailed out with public money.

Having voted to rely on the “broad shoulders of the Union” in 2014, Scotland was later dragged out of our main market because too many folk in England believe Britain is exceptional. It is exceptional for being one of the most unequal societies in the world, both across society and geographically.

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Folk should look around them, see poor infrastructure, unfit and unaffordable housing, struggling public services, a mind-boggling energy market fixed to the global price of gas in a country with huge renewable resources, and vast areas of land used exclusively for a few folk to kill grouse and deer. Visit any of our northern neighbours and ask yourself why they appear to be doing so much better, with standards of living way ahead of the UK’s. These include Iceland, a volcanic remote nation with hardly any farm land, or Finland, whose main natural resource is huge forests (and one of the most highly educated populations). They don’t mind paying higher taxes, because they reap the benefit of strong public services.

The Unionist parties have no answer because they believe this is as good as it gets. Fortunately, despite the badgering from the UK-supporting media, 50% of Scots disagree. We need more to disagree and decide that a resource-rich country like Scotland must and can do better as an independent nation built on healthier economic values. Then, maybe we can build a resilient and more equal society, with no “remote” areas needing to rely for a living on the dubious animal welfare practices of the caged-salmon industry.

Mr Packham has been invited to visit a caged salmon farm to “see the reality”. So that we can all participate in seeing the reality, shops should have videos running showing the life of salmon in cages and the human interventions they endure – vaccination, medicinal baths, transfer by pumps, mechanical removal of sea lice, and ultimately death (if they survive to this stage) by mechanical stunning and bleeding. Also, being caged unlike their wild cousins, the fish cannot escape from natural lethal threats such as algae blooms and mass jellyfish attack. Of course, the chance of seeing this reality is zero.

Roddie Macpherson