Last weekend saw the launch of the “Farming for Yes” group. True to Yes campaign form, they came armed with utopian visions as to what the Scottish agricultural sector would look like post-independence and quickly set about proffering multitudinous promises to all and sundry.
Most striking is their assertion that Scotland’s farmers could expect millions of pounds in extra EU subsidies.This is a blatant falsehood, as it is clear an independent Scotland would have to re-apply to join the EU and go through a tortuous accession process that could take years. During this time, our farmers would face a lengthy hiatus during which they would receive zero single farm payments.
In addition, there is absolute certainty that Scotland, as a new EU member state, would not be eligible for any part of the current British rebate, meaning the cost of EU membership would be higher per capita in Scotland than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The fact of the matter is that when it comes to Europe, Scottish farmers stand to gain more as part of the United Kingdom. We have already seen this in the recent Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiations, where UK negotiators, in the face of strong opposition from other nations, used their collective strength to secure a greater emphasis on regional decision making in the final agreement.
This handed the Scottish Government the ability to implement what is effectively a Scottish CAP, bringing power back to Scotland and away from Brussels’ bureaucrats.
It would be desperately unwise simply to cast this influence aside in pursuit of the highly uncertain future put forward by the Yes camp. The interests of Scotland’s farmers are best served within the UK.
Struan Stevenson MEP
The European Parliament