“MISTRUST” between local and national government would only be aggravated if SNP ministers overrule a decision to block the development of a new fish farm in the waters of a Scottish national park, a community council has said.

The news comes after ministers in the Edinburgh government took the rare decision to “call in” a planning application from Loch Long Salmon to build a new facility within the boundaries of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

It is understood that Planning Minister Joe FitzPatrick will now make the final decision on whether the salmon farm, which would be the first of its kind in Scotland, will be allowed to go ahead.

The farm would use a semi-closed containment system (SCCS), with fish housed in nets within impermeable floating enclosures.

READ MORE: SNP ministers take direct control over controversial fish farm planning appeal

The Loch Lomond Park Authority rejected the plans in November 2022, with officials advising that they would “have an industrial appearance in an area of undeveloped coastline” and raising concerns that there was “not a body of sound evidence on which to rely to make a decision on this new technology”.

Now, Bute Community Council has written to FitzPatrick – and his direct boss Deputy First Minister Shona Robison – warning that to overrule the national park’s decision would worsen tensions with locals in the area.

The council’s convener, Jean Moffat, wrote: “Local democracy is being eroded day by day and this flagrant ‘grab’ from the common actioning of a planning appeal only enhances and deepens mistrust of government.

“At a time of difficult governing, it seems thoughtless to aggravate that existing mistrust.”

The National: An illustration of a SCCS fish farm, which would aim to pump waste from the bottom of the enclosure out of the water and on to landAn illustration of a SCCS fish farm, which would aim to pump waste from the bottom of the enclosure out of the water and on to land

Moffat added: “Please consider long and hard about approving any proposed industry with the hallowed grounds of national parks. Once a precedent has been set it cannot be rescinded.”

The community council also argue that the SCCS fish farm could lead to “immeasurable damage to our waters” as well as a “large industrial complex requiring 24-hour lighting highly visible to the A814”.

“This type of installation is untenable in an area granted national park status by government,” Moffat wrote.

Speaking to the Sunday National last week, Loch Long Salmon (LLS) managing director Stewart Hawthorn argued that the proposed fish farm would be “a light agricultural development rather than industrial”.

“Loch Long has got a military base on it, it’s got a large petrochemical terminal on it and within visual sight of this location. It’s got a navy refueling dock within sight. It’s got large hotels that are incredibly visually impactful. In that setting, overall, our development does fit,” Hawthorn said.

Hawthorn further argued that the project would bring £30 million of much-needed investment to rural Scotland, with £100,000 being generated annually for further community investment.

When up and running, the fish farm would support 12 full-time jobs.

Arguments surround claims that 88% of fish food and excrement waste would be collected and brought on land, rather than being released into the native waterways, if an SCCS system were put in place.

Officials at the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division have suggested that oral evidence hearings will take place as part of the consideration of the application, with invitations to take part sent to interested parties in recent weeks.

If the appeal is ultimately rejected, LLS may still bring an SCCS fish farm to Scotland’s west coast, with plans in the works to submit an application for a site in Loch Linnhe, north of Oban.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This appeal has been recalled by Scottish Ministers because the proposed semi-closed farming system is a new technology that raises issues of national significance given its potential impact on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

“An independent reporter has been appointed to consider the potential development and they will submit a report to the Planning Minister, who will make the final decision as to whether or not planning permission should be granted.”