The SNP is “passing the buck” to local councils on aid for the north-east fish processing sector, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
Industry leaders from the north-east met Derek Mackay in recent weeks to raise concerns that trade is being lost to companies in the north of England, where running costs are lower.
High levels of business rates have been identified as one area in which the Scottish Government can help to make firms in the Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Aberdeen areas more competitive.
However, in a letter to Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City council leaders, the Finance Secretary has said that local authorities must step in and offer further relief.
Aberdeen City remains the lowest funded council area anywhere in Scotland, while Aberdeenshire is the third lowest.
Scottish Conservative MSP Peter Chapman, Shadow Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said: “Fish processing sector leaders went to the Scottish Government because they recognise that action is required on a national level.
“It is disappointing to see once again that Derek Mackay is passing the buck to local councils.
“I said in parliament last week that the SNP government must to more to help our fish processing sector. At the moment, they are losing work to the north of England because, quite simply, it is cheaper to operate there.
“High business rates, water charges and effluent charges make it increasingly difficult for firms in the north-east of Scotland to compete.
“In the last eight years, there has been a 34% decline in fish processing factories and a 12% drop in people employed in the sector in our area.
“Our councils here in the north-east are among the worst funded in Scotland – with more cuts to come. They cannot afford to shoulder the bill for this.
“Given the expected increase in landings post-Brexit, this is an industry that requires government support – and fast.”