Two of Scotland’s leading farming businessmen have outlined their concerns for the future for their produce in UK markets if Scotland votes to break away from the UK.
At the final “Rural Better Together” event prior to the Scottish Independence referendum on 18 September, Glenrath Farms egg company founder, John Campbell and Willie Porter, a director of Angus Soft Fruits, said they feared that competitors south of the border would take advantage of a Yes outcome to cripple their businesses.
Mr Campbell questioned whether his Scottish egg business, which has a turnover of £56m, employs 230 people and exports 75% of output to England, would be allowed to use the Lion mark, a quality assurance stamp that is required by all supermarkets.
“The Lion mark is for British eggs and the British Egg Information Council is based in London. English competitors would use the opportunity of independence to prevent us from using it,” he said.
See also: Former NFUS presidents back Yes campaign
“If the major producers are south of the border and they get a chance to get rid of their competitors, what do you think they’ll do? Independence would be the opportunity.”
Mr Porter said Angus Soft Fruits has a £63m turnover and exports 80% of its produce to major supermarkets in England. He added that for two weeks at the height of the soft fruit season, the fruit market was seriously oversupplied and producers “took a hammering” with produce sold as a loss leader.
“Imagine how we would be placed in a glut in the event of a Yes vote. We wouldn’t have a hell’s chance against Kentish Growers so it’s important that we have a relationship and they recognise they need our fruit most of the time,” he added.
“And imagine a pack line having to supply supermarkets in England and Scotland. When you stop a line to change labels it costs time and takes a while to get everything right. If we have to stop to do Scottish labels then English ones and Scottish again it would be a nightmare.”
Borders farmer Keith Redpath, who has businesses in both Scotland and England, said he was concerned about border crossings and levies for produce.
“I shifted 500t of grain from England to my grain store in Scotland last weekend which will then be sold back to an English company. And they might well deliver it back to Scotland,” he said. “Will there be costs attached to that if we vote yes? If we don’t have a common currency it will be a very difficult thing. We’ll also alienate ourselves from the customers we have in other parts of the UK because that’s the way human nature works.
“My business is currently set up in Scotland and I would seriously consider moving it to England and hope I’d be able to run the Scottish land from the other side of the border.”
George Lyon, the leader of Rural Better Together, said he had spoken to 2,000 farmers at a series of debates around the country and judged that close to 70% would vote in favour of staying in the UK.
The big worry is not the rural vote,” he said. “Scottish farmers and the Scottish food industry are convinced that their future is best delivered by staying as part of the union.”
Farmers Weekly will also report from the final “Farmers For Yes” rally near Airdrie on Wednesday.