Scotland’s whisky producers and brewers have been praised for their “exceptionally high standards” of environmental compliance.
In the latest set of figures, released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), compliance across the two sectors improved from 93.2% to 95.5% in 2018.
Of the 176 sites assessed 142 were rated excellent, 24 good and two broadly compliant. Only eight were deemed to be at risk or poor.
Food and drink manufacturers achieved compliance of 89.6%, with 84 of the 96 sites rated excellent or good.
The country’s aquaculture sector, which has been under pressure from environmental groups for its poor record, managed to increase its compliance from 81.14% in 2017 to 85.5%.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said its members had achieved their best performance to date, with 87% of farms in the good or excellent category. “We fully recognise that a strong environmental performance is key to successful salmon farming and we want to demonstrate publicly our commitment to responsible performance,” said SSPO chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird.
The environmental impact of Scotland’s salmon production has been under scrutiny following two damning inquiries by MSPs. Last year, an investigation by BBC’s Panorama also raised concerns that chemicals used to treat sea lice, as well as faeces and food waste coming from the thousands of salmon, could be damaging the environment in some of Scotland's lochs.
Campaigners have raised concerns that industry plans to double in size by 2030 could cause further damage. The Scottish salmon farming sector has rapidly increased, with more than 200 fish farms now operating in the country, producing more than 150,000 tonnes of salmon a year.
Sepa has also come in for criticism. In June 2019 the regulator launched a revised regulatory framework for the aquaculture sector, which will tighten up and improve its monitoring of sites. The aquaculture sector has also become a priority for its enforcement team.
Sepa chief executive Terry A’Hearn said environmental compliance is “non-negotiable. Every Scottish business will comply with the law, and we’ll work to ensure as many as possible will go even further.”
He added: “We’re pleased to recognise the exceptionally high standards of compliance from Scotland’s distillers and brewers.”