The SNP’s Richard Lochhead will today (Tuesday) set out the opportunities offered by independence for Scotland’s farmers – and contrast the gains of Yes with Westminster’s record of abject failure for Scotland’s agricultural sector.
On a visit to a farm in New Luce Mr Lochhead will take questions from undecided farmers – and will highlight the strength of Scotland’s food and drink sector as well as the failures of successive Westminster governments which have let down the industry.
As part of the UK, Westminster has negotiated Scotland to the bottom of the Common Agricultural Policy funding league – contrasting with the extra €1bn in direct farm funding and a potential extra €2.5bn in rural development funding Scotland could have benefited from as an independent member state.
Richard Lochhead has already set out five key gains for farming and crofting in Scotland after a Yes vote:
• The opportunity to increase direct farm payments.
• The opportunity to increase rural development funding.
• The guarantee of direct representation in the European Union to negotiate our own priorities
• The opportunity to use full fiscal powers to encourage farm tenancies and new entrants.
• Ensuring Scotland’s agricultural levies support Scottish produce.
Commenting, Mr Lochhead said:
“Scotland’s farmers are at the heart of our rural communities and play a key role in our economy – but for too long our farming industry has been badly let down by a Westminster establishment that is obsessed with London and the south east.
“Westminster has negotiated us to the bottom of the CAP funding table and sees us lose out on substantial direct farm payments which would make a real difference to farmers across the country – Westminster simply isn’t working for our farming industry.
“But Scotland’s rural economy is incredibly strong – our food and drink exports are worth £14bn and a Yes vote gives us the opportunity to grow this key industry even further, taking advantage of the 50 per cent rise in exports which would stem from the Scottish Government’s reindustrialisation plans.
“Farmers and rural communities across Scotland are waking up to the incredible opportunities presented by a Yes vote – and I’m looking forward to discussing the gains of Yes for rural Scotland tonight.”
South of Scotland MSP Aileen McLeod added:
“Farmers across the south of Scotland have been badly let down by Westminster – and a Yes vote offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for our agricultural sector to fulfill its incredible potential.
“Tonight’s event will be a great chance for people across the south of Scotland to hear about the key gains of independence for rural Scotland.”