Scottish independence: Lochhead to woo undecided farmers

Scotland’s rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead will try to win over farmers who are undecided about which way to vote on independence during a farm visit on Tuesday (26 August).

Mr Lochhead will describe how the Scottish National Party (SNP) will set out the opportunities offered by independence to Scottish farmers, which he said contrasted Westminster’s “record of abject failure” for the country’s agricultural sector.

During the visit to the farm on in New Luce, Dumfries and Galloway on Tuesday evening, he will take questions from undecided farmers and highlight the strength of Scotland’s food and drink sector as well as the “failures of successive Westminster governments” that have “let down the industry”.

Mr Lochhead insisted that Scottish farmers had been badly let down by the UK government in the latest Common Agricultural Policy deal, which he said had seen the country relegated to the bottom of the CAP funding league.

See also: Scottish independence: Battle for farmers’ votes intensifies

By contrast, an independent Scotland able to make its own decisions on agricultural policy could have benefited from an additional €1bn in direct farm funding and a potential extra €2.5bn in rural development funding, he added.

Speaking ahead of the visit, he 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 that 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% rise in exports that would stem from the Scottish government’s re-industrialisation 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.”

Mr 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.

Aileen McLeod, SNP MSP for South Scotland, 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 fulfil 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.”

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