Scotland’s farmers and food processors will not be satisfied with a return to “business as usual” after the conclusive No vote in yesterday’s independence referendum.
NFUS vice-president Allan Bowie said this morning that the union intended to ensure that Westminster’s promises of more devolved powers would benefit the food and drink sector north of the Border.
And he added that the union would be taking up long-standing issues such as ensuring the levies paid by Scottish farmers for beef and lamb promotion should be “repatriated” to Scotland.
“Issues like these that have been put on hold until after the vote should now be picked up,” he said. “There are gains to be made for Scottish agriculture and we need to keep the momentum going.”
However Mr Bowie conceded that many union members would be disappointed with the result and that work had to be done to build relationships with customers throughout the rest of the UK.
“We rely heavily on trade to customers south of the border and we need to make sure that our food and drink still has a place in their food basket.”
NFU Scotland remained impartial in the run-up to the vote and more than one-third of the union’s membership participated in referendum campaigns the length and breadth of the country. The key issues revolved around currency, membership of the EU, access to markets and timescales for constitutional change.
In a statement, NFUS president Nigel Miller said it was now imperative that Scotland fulfilled the potential of the country’s farming, food and drink sectors.
“As a representative organisation that brings together farmers and crofters across all sectors, we will work to unite all politicians, regardless of party or parliament, on the need to capitalise on the real opportunities for our produce both at home and abroad,” he said.
“Further powers for Scotland have been promised. Clarity on the scope of those powers and timescale for delivery will be important if momentum for positive change is to be maintained. There is to be a debate in Westminster on 16 October to consider extra devolved powers for Scotland, a white paper by the end of November and draft legislation by January 2015. The process of how NFU Scotland will engage in that debate starts today.”
Mr Miller said the union would now formally write to both campaigns, thanking them for their willingness to engage with the farming community, their commitment to making the referendum process work and the need to accept the result and move forward.
“The referendum has split Scotland but the impartial position that NFU Scotland adopted throughout is now a vital tool as Scotland and the UK move into a new political world.
“We can bridge the political landscape in Scotland and help to develop and energise a better future. Even before the vote was known, there was recognition that we were on the threshold of an era of change.”
George Lyon, chairman of Rural Better Together, said thee vast majority of farmers across Scotland had backed staying in the UK.
“I am sure they will be delighted that the majority of Scots have said No to Independence,” he said.
“Scottish farmers will now expect Scottish government ministers to make sorting out their problems their number-one priority – not independence. They will also expect them to work constructively with the rest of the UK in finding solutions to the many outstanding issues facing farmers such as the implementation of CAP reform which have been on the back burner for far too long.”