SCOTLAND would benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of extra funds with thousands more jobs created if it was an independent member of the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon claimed in a keynote speech last night.
The deputy SNP leader used a speech in Edinburgh to claim that if Scotland was represented as an independent nation in the EU it would have received £850 million in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding, which she said would have supported an extra 2,500 jobs.
Ms Sturgeon said the CAP funding would increase economic output by £1 billion from 2014 to 2020.
She went on to claim that Scotland had been short-changed by decisions at Westminster, which she said had left Scots with the lowest farm payments in the EU.
“As an independent country we would have benefited from an additional £850m in farm payments from Europe, estimated to support an additional 2,500 jobs in our local communities over the period 2014 to 2020,” she said.
Speaking at the first in a series of lectures organised by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the David Hume Institute in the run-up to the referendum, Ms Sturgeon insisted that an independent Scotland would not be blocked from joining the EU in the aftermath of a Yes vote.
The SNP government claims the country would remain inside the EU after a Yes vote and renegotiate its membership from within.
Ms Sturgeon also warned that Scots wanting to remain in the EU could be outvoted by the rest of the UK due to David
Cameron’s plans to stage a referendum on Europe if the Tories win the next general election.
She said: “The EU is not in the business of throwing out its citizens, of ignoring democratic processes, of reducing co-operation and cutting the size of the EU.
“The only risk to Scotland’s continuing membership of the EU is the in/out referendum that the Prime Minister has pledged to hold by 2017.
“Before that we know he wants to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union. But we don’t know precisely what he wants to renegotiate.
“We don’t know if he will recommend withdrawal if those renegotiation talks fail. And we obviously don’t know what the result of any referendum on Europe might be.
“It is perfectly possible that a majority of people in Scotland would vote to stay in the EU but that a majority elsewhere in the UK would vote to come out.”
However, a spokesman from the Better Together campaign accused Ms Sturgeon of promoting “scare stories” about the UK’s future EU membership.
The UK government’s Scotland Office last night issued a statement that suggested an independent Scotland would not immediately receive the same financial benefits as existing EU member states.
A Scotland Office spokesman said: “It cannot be taken for granted that an independent Scottish state would be able to negotiate with all 28 other member states to secure the same terms that we hold as part of the UK.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to accept that this year’s referendum could be the only one ever held. She said: “What worries me is that if we don’t take this opportunity we might never get it again.”