A new group representing farmers in favour of an independent Scotland makes its local debut at Dumfries Show this Saturday...
Farmers for Yes was launched successfully at the Borders Union show in Kelso last week and the Dumfries Show will mark its second public outing.
Dumfries and Galloway farmers will be able to sign up to the campaign or collect information about the benefits of independence for agriculture, particularly through a strong Scottish voice in the European Union.
Local farmer Neale McQuistin of New Luce is on the steering group of Farmers for yes. He said:
“I believe that farmers in Scotland are far more valued by a Scottish Government and that farming could do even better if we were left to decide our own future and had our own place at the table in Europe. It doesn’t seem right that our leaders should be left outside the negotiating room with Defra in there negotiating on our behalf for our livelihoods.”
As part of the UK, Scotland languishes with the fourth lowest EU single farm payments in Europe, at just 48% of the average; England, on the other hand, receives 85% of the EU average.
Scotland also has the lowest rural development fund levels in the whole of the EU as part of the UK – with just 22.5% of the funding received by Ireland. If we were independent, we would have been able to negotiate a much better deal for our rural communities.
Scotland has very different agricultural needs and priorities from the rest of the UK. About 85% of Scotland falls under the EU’s category of ‘less favoured’ agricultural land, compared to just 17% in England.
If Scotland was independent, we would be eligible for more than 1 billion euros extra in Pillar 1 CAP funding up to 2020 – supporting farming businesses and benefitting the wider rural economy.
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment at Holyrood, who attended last week’s successful launch says Holyrood has defended agricultural spending levels while the UK Government has campaigned for a reduction to the CAP budget.
Mr Lochhead said: “Independence will deliver greater financial support for Scottish agriculture, not least the extra hundreds of millions of pounds of support through the Common Agricultural Policy that we will qualify for under the funding formula as a Member State in our own right.
“Scottish farming and our land is diverse and has distinctive needs. At EU talks I have attended, successive UK London based Ministers have referred to the vital interests of our farmers as ‘itty-bitty’ and ‘technical’ issues, whereas a Scottish Minister at the top of the table would always make the needs of our food producers top negotiating priorities.
“I am delighted, but not at all surprised, that many farmers are stepping forward to campaign for a Yes vote in September 2014. Our hard-working farmers represent the resilience, innovation and skills that will make Scotland prosper under independence. Our farmers produce the nation’s larder and that, along with their stewardship of our spectacular environment, means they underpin our globally successful food and drink industry that will help ensure economic success in an independent Scotland.”
Toni Giugliano, Yes Scotland’s interest groups coordinator, said Farming for Yes is seen by farmers and the wider rural community as a significant step.
He said: “Scotland’s farmers have nothing to gain from Westminster, which has repeatedly tried to slash agricultural spending. Westminster has negotiated the worst possible deal for Scotland’s farmers – one of the lowest single farm payment deals in Europe and the lowest levels of Rural Development Fund.
“Our priorities are significantly different from Westminster’s – that’s why we need our own seat at the top tables of Europe to represent Scotland’s farming interests.”