With polling day behind us and the Highland Hall at Ingliston now having played its crucial role in counting and declaring the historic result, it would probably be fair to say that, in the farming world at least, few stones were left unturned or avenues unexplored at referendum meetings around the country.
Yet, however divisive the discussions and arguments might have occasionally been, the debate brought farmers together in numbers normally only seen when issues as close to their hearts – or wallets – as the financial implications of common agricultural policy (CAP) reforms have been on the agenda.
Some of these gatherings were organised by the two sides in the debate – Farming for Yes and Rural Better Together – and these groups certainly contributed to the media feeding frenzy with their game of “top trumps” as both sides paraded a number of industry leaders, including former union presidents, recruited to their cause.
However, hats must surely be raised to the current team at NFU Scotland for their efforts in organising meetings in every corner of rural Scotland to give farmers the opportunity to hear both sides put their case – and for maintaining a steadfastly non-partisan stance whilst so doing.
Since the keynote debate at Stirling Mart in the springtime, which drew top politicians and campaign spokesmen, the union went on to organise referendum debates which attracted more than 1,700 farmers to meeting rooms big and small.
And a large number also took advantage of the the organisation’s website which hosted pages where both campaigns set out their stalls on the leading questions such as EU membership, currency, access to markets and the timelines for constitutional change. But while providing the industry with these unique opportunities to get to grips with the issues and the people behind them, the union remained unwaveringly unbiased – a position which president Nigel Miller this week said would stand the organisation in good stead when business recommences once the result is known.
And, contemplating the days following the vote, he said that the industry should “focus on the consensus, forget the divisions and work together to grasp a better, more successful society.”
“NFU Scotland has been at the centre of the political debate in every corner of rural Scotland but has rightly stood aside to allow our members and the Scottish people to decide Scotland’s future,” he said.
“The neutral position that we adopted is now a vital tool as Scotland and the UK move into a new political world. NFU Scotland must bridge the political landscape and help to develop and energise a better future. The union must also reach out to partners in the UK and Europe and renew those relationships which work for farming and Scotland whatever the result.
And, with the result still to be announced at the time, he added: “Yes or No, we are on the threshold of an era of change.”