Every Scottish farmer would be £6,000 better off if Scotland becomes an independent nation – that was the message delivered by Richard Lochhead at the SNP Conference 2012.
Speaking to party members in Perth, the Scottish rural affairs secretary accused the Westminster government of ignoring the needs of Scottish farmers.
“I’ve lost count of the number of UK farming and fishing minster that have come and gone since 2007. But for generations, the UK’s track record in standing up for Scotland in Europe has been utterly appalling,” said Mr Lochhead.
“That’s one reason why Scotland receives the lowest level of rural development funding in not just the UK, but the whole of Europe – we receive the lowest level of farming payments in the UK and fourth lowest in Europe.”
He attacked the UK government’s calls for a cut to the farming budget and said without adequate financial support, hill farmers in the Highlands and islands would struggle to survive.
“A new funding formula is being proposed for farming payments that could eventually deliver a massive uplift of £150m a year for Scotland – that’s nearly £6,000 for every farm in Scotland,” added Mr Lochhead.
“But there’s a catch – Scotland would only qualify for this uplift if we were a member state in our own right. That’s a heavy price for our farmers and crofters to pay for being represented by the UK in Europe.”
UK ministers had to pull their finger out and deliver for Scotland in vital CAP reform talks, because these negotiations were too important for Scotland to be left standing in the corridors, he said.
He said he would be writing to DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson to allow Scottish ministers access to CAP discussions.
Responding to Mr Lochhead’s address, Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said: “The SNP are very fond of accusing others of promising ‘jam tomorrow’, yet that is exactly what Mr Lochhead is doing here.
“It is yet another baseless assertion. If Mr Lochhead was serious about helping Scottish farmers now then he would make the change from historic to area-based SFP payments.
“He has refused to do this – instead he prefers to blame others and play politics. Scottish farmers will not thank him for politicising their livelihoods.”