South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has outlined how a yes vote this summer will benefit rural economies like Dumfries and Galloway by ensuring they receive a fair share of the EU farming budget.
Ms McAlpine made the comments while speaking in a parliamentary debate last Wednesday about the importance of the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Scotland.
As part of the UK, Scotland is currently at the bottom of the funding tables for Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 CAP payments – If Scotland had been an independent country when the latest CAP budget was decided, Scotland’s farmers would have been €1 billion better off by 2020 -funding that could have supported 2,500 jobs.
The SNP MSP said:
“An area like Dumfries and Galloway - that accounts for a well-above-average share of Scotland’s dairy and beef herds and agricultural holdings would surely be at the front of the queue for an improved CAP.
“It also stands to reason that my constituents would be well placed to benefit from a substantial proportion of that €1 billion uplift and an above-average percentage of the 2,500 rural jobs that the Scottish Government has calculated the extra billion would create.
“Instead the UK has failed to negotiate an acceptable agricultural budget allocation, leaving Scotland with the lowest Pillar 1 and 2 CAP funding of all the EU nations.
During the debate, Ms McAlpine also spoke of the anticipated knock on benefit increased agricultural funding would have for other sectors and businesses integral to the south of Scotland economy.
“It is not just our farmers who are missing out. Agriculture is integral to many tourism enterprises and has a major impact on food and drink both in terms of processing and direct sales.
“Despite all of this, the Westminster Government are arguing to drastically reduce or even end farm payments altogether – that would be a disaster.”
“Scotland’s priorities are not Westminster’s but Westminster Ministers represent us in Europe.
“With independence we could negotiate fairer Pillar 2 payments, as other member states have done. For example, Ireland managed to negotiate €2 billion – 85% of the UK’s total despite having an area of agricultural land around 25% of the UK total.”