How would Scottish industries be affected by Brexit?

Members of the Scotland Stronger In Europe campaign distribute leaflets in Edinburgh. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/JP License

Members of the Scotland Stronger In Europe campaign distribute leaflets in Edinburgh. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/JP License

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VOTERS will go to the polls on June 23 to decide on whether the UK should retain its membership of the European Union. If there was a so-called Brexit, what would be the impact on vital sectors of the Scottish economy?

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Merchandise on offer at a Grassroots Out rally at the University of Glasgow. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Merchandise on offer at a Grassroots Out rally at the University of Glasgow. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

There has been some concern among Scotland’s tech industries over the negative consequences of a Brexit.

Jamie Coleman, chief executive of Codebase, believes the sector could rebound faster than others in the wake of a Leave vote - but added it would be “foolish” for the UK to quit.

“It would be ludicrously short-sighted to think Brexit would be sensible,” he told The Scotsman in March. “There’s no question it would be economically horrendous.”

Coleman is the co-founder of the Edinburgh-based technology hub now home to more than 80 start-ups.

“The reality is that Europe is such an important market for us and the business advantage we have of being part of it is huge,” he said.

The Vote Leave campaign said a Brexit vote would be the “best choice” for science and techology.

“Brussels has taken wide powers over the policies that govern scientific research and the development of new technology but its bureaucracy is extremely slow to fix problems and adapt to new ideas,” said a spokesman. “Its funding system is broken.”

FARMING

Around 40 per cent of the total EU budget is dedicated to agriculture.

In 2014, the average farm support equated to 18 per cent of eventual output in Scotland, according to the National Union of Farmers Scotland (NUFS).

The union is backing the Remain campaign. “Key considerations of NFU Scotland members concern how the financial support given to farmers and crofters via the Common Agricultural Policy might be replicated outside of the EU,” said Claire Slipper of the NUFS.

“Farmers would prefer to farm without the financial support they receive from the EU but the reality is that most farms don’t make enough from the market for this to be possible.

“Any drop in, or removal of, direct support could lead to a significant restructuring of Scottish farm businesses, particularly those in the most marginal areas.”

It is estimated per capita reliance on EU farm subsidies is three times higher in Scotland and Wales than England.

Vote Leave claimed savings made by the UK exchequer from Brexit would allow money to be reinvetested back into the farming sector.

“EU regulations make life harder for Scottish farmers,” a spokesman said.

“If we Vote Leave and take back control, we would protect and even increase support for our farmers without subsidising inefficient French competitors.”

Read more: EU referendum: where do Scotland’s political parties stand?

FISHING

The UK fishing minister, George Eustice, is among the senior Conservative MPs campaigning for Brexit. He visited Peterhead this week to meet with trawler skippers and press home his message that the industry would benefit from a break with the EU.

Scottish vessels are responsible for around 60 per cent of landings in the UK.

The industry has traditionally viewed the EU with suspicion due to cuts in fishing time and quotas under the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is neutral on the issue of the EU referendum, however.

Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead has previously said it is in the industry’s interests to remain inside the EU.

He has argued that fishing has never been a priority for Westminster and there is no sign this would change following a Brexit.

The Stronger In campaign has described Mr Eustice’s promises as “vague”.

Read more: Poll: Scots would vote for independence if UK votes for Brexit

FOOD AND DRINK

Scotch whisky is estimated to account for 25 per cent of the UK’s total food and drink exports, worth £1.7bn in the first half of 2015.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which represents the interests of the industry, is firmly against Brexit.

“The EU’s single market, including its regulation of food and drink, and its single trade policy, are central to Scotch whisky’s success,” said David Frost, SWA chief executive.

“The agreement secured with the EU includes a welcome re-statement of the importance of a deeper and freer single market and for the EU to be more ambitious and free-trading internationally.

“Future reforms in these areas - with the UK able to influence the debate in Brussels - would benefit the whisky industry.”

A spokesman for Vote Leave said: “We’ve given up control over our trade deals to the EU and the Brussels bureaucracy. That is holding back our ability to sell iconic exports like whisky into vitally important emerging markets.”

HEALTH

The Westminster health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has warned the NHS across the UK could see an exodus of overseas doctors and nurses in the wake of a Brexit vote.

The Conservative MP has also argued current spending on the health service can only be maintained if the UK econmy remains strong - implying leaving the EU could stunt growth.

Brexit campaigns have accussed Hunt of “scaremongering”, and suggested it was his poor stewardship of the service that has caused issues.

A spokesman for Vote Leave said: “The EU is threat to our NHS. If we vote leave we can spend the £350 million we hand to Brussels each week on our priorities like the NHS.”

The BMA is neutral on the issue.

Healthier in the EU, a grassroots campaign for medical professionals, said EU membership helped the UK tackle public health issues that cross borders such as air polution, which causes 40,000 premature deaths per year.

“It also helps us share resources for advanced healthcare, like expensive equipment, and it helps us share expertise research data which is becoming more and more important as we discover how individualised health problems often are,” said a spokesman.

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