Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon has launched the party’s election manifesto by pledging to “protect the future success of the [agri-food] industry” by fighting for Scotland to remain a member of the single market.
In the manifesto the SNP said there should be “no question” that the Scottish parliament should have full control of EU agricultural funding following Brexit.
And she has laid out plans to bring an “end to the UK government’s great rural robbery” by demanding Westminster passes on all of the compensatory funding it receives from the EU because of the low payment rates in Scotland.
Currently this £194m “convergence uplift” payment is split between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the Scottish parliament has long argued that the money rightfully belongs to Scottish farmers.
Mrs Sturgeon said: “As our farmers face huge uncertainty on issues like trading tariffs, seasonal migrant workers and the future of rural funding, and the Tories treat our fishing industry as ‘expendable’ once again – we will stand up for Scotland’s rural economy in Brexit negotiations.
“SNP MPs will make sure the UK government guarantees to match the current share of EU funding beyond Brexit and repays farmers their missing millions, including the £160m ‘convergence uplift’ Scottish farmers have been short changed on.”
In its manifesto the SNP makes nine pledges which will impact Scottish agriculture, including to:
- Fight to maintain single market membership to protect the future success of the agrifood industry.
- Ensure current EU funding levels are matched, and demand urgent clarity from the UK government on long-term funding arrangements post-Brexit, while continuing to demand that additional funding received from the EU for Scottish farmers is passed on.
- Ensure forestry grants for 2019 and beyond, and funding for the Less Favoured Areas grant scheme in 2019 are met in full.
- Seek that any powers relating to agriculture or environmental protection repatriated back to the UK are devolved to the Scottish parliament, and seek the devolution of immigration powers to limit the impact of the loss of freedom of movement on the soft fruit and vegetable industries.
- Maintain EU regulation over animal and plant health, and environmental and food safety, to enable Scotland to continue to access export markets around the world.
- Not allow the UK government to dismantle Scotland’s GM-free status and commitment.
- Ensure that any future trade deals secure geographical indications for key Scottish food and drink products like Scotch whisky, Arbroath smokies and Stornoway black pudding.
- Press for a review of the Voluntary Code of Practice for the dairy sector and for contract provisions and arrangements to better meet the interests and needs of milk producers.
- Ensure 100% of Scottish properties have access to super-fast broadband by 2021 by calling for the Universal Service Obligation for broadband to be improved to cover up to 30Mbps.