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Monday, September 6, 1999 Published at 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK

UK: Scotland

Salmon farmers win compensation

Millions of salmon have been destroyed because of disease

Scottish salmon farmers have been offered a £9m government compensation package for fish damaged by the deadly infectious salmon anaemia disease.

The BBC's John Johnston reports on reaction to the compensation package.
Under the previous Scottish Office the money was only going to be made available if the industry matched the government's contribution pound for pound.

But the Scottish Executive has changed the rules and the unconditional funding will be channelled through Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Infectious salmon anaemia or ISA causes internal bleeding and has devastated stocks in other countries.

The viral disease was first found in Norway in the mid-1980s and has also appeared in Canada.

In the UK millions of fish have already had to be destroyed and at least 10 farms have been closed down.

Back into production

The cash aid announced on Monday will be used to help firms affected by ISA get back into production.

But John Hume Robertson, Deputy Minister for Rural Affairs, said the Scottish Executive had decided to reject the industry's call for an insurance-style scheme for compensation payouts.

Had the scheme been accepted it would have effectively removed the ceiling on the money the government would have to pay out.

Mr Home Robertson said: "We have concluded that it would be inappropriate at a time of great pressure on public funds for the taxpayer to bear the unquantifiable costs of an insurance scheme.

No pre-conditions

"Nevertheless, we fully recognise the vital importance of the industry to the economy of many rural areas.

"Therefore, we have decided to confirm the provision of up to £9m over the next three years without the pre-condition of matching funding by the industry.''

But Scottish salmon farmers say the money being made available is deeply disappointing.

A spokesman for the Scottish Salmon Growers' Association said the industry needed insurance cover and that the government announcement had made the industry and the 6,500 jobs it provides more vulnerable to uncertainty.

The minister also said he was looking to the EC to allow some changes in the regulations governing how the disease should be handled.

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