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Salmon firm blames planning delays and lack of rain for cuts

While the rest of the UK suffered severe flooding in the early summer of last year, the Western Isles had only one-fifth of its normal rainfall.

Now the lack of downpours has been partly blamed for a major fish farming company's decision to cut jobs in the area.

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC), which also blamed delays in planning consents, announced that it is reviewing its harvesting and processing requirements and expects to implement job cuts by spring this year.

It is one of the larger private employers in the Western Isles with 169 working between 19 fish farms, three hatcheries, harvesting and its new production plant in Stornoway. A consultation process has begun with staff to explore redeployment.

SSC has not been able to secure planning permission for additional fish farming sites at Toa Tolsta on Lewis and Plocrapol on Harris, as quickly as it thought when investing £3 million in its new factory.

Stewart McLelland, SSC's chief executive, who said he hoped the job losses would be temporary, also revealed fish were also affected by Amoebic Gill Disease. He said: "This naturally occurring amoeba, which impacts fish health, is exacerbated by warm weather and a lack of rain.

"Finally, the uncharacteristically low market price for salmon in 2012 meant that our income has been reduced."

Western Isles Council leader, Angus Campbell, said it was supportive of the company's strategic plans.

Local SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said he also would speak to the company and Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing.

On Monday, it was revealed a growing appetite for Scottish salmon in the Far East has seen exports leap to record levels.

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