Both sides seeking the farming vote in independence campaign

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The battle for the votes of the Scottish farming industry on the independence referendum moved into action yesterday with two of Scotland’s MEPs, George Lyon and Alyn Smith, taking up positions in opposing camps.

Speaking at a farming conference in Carnoustie, Lyon warned farmers that the break-up of the United Kingdom could have a “profound impact” on Scottish agriculture.

He claimed that the position of an independent Scotland in Europe was far from clear. In discussions with senior European politicians on Scotland’s access to EU membership, Lyon said it was clear it would not simply be rubber stamped by the 27 other member states.

“Our membership would come at the end of a long and drawn out process of application, negotiation and in all likelihood capitulation on some of the opt-outs that the UK enjoys at present,” he said.

“And what could happen to EU support for Scottish farmers during this period? The fact is that we simply do not know.

“No-one is suggesting that an independent Scotland could not be part of the EU. But the details of the application process and the terms of our membership are far from clear.”

Such is his concern that more than 1,000 Scottish farmers will receive a letter this week on behalf of the Better Together campaign arguing that independence could increase barriers to trade with the English and European markets.

For his part, Smith said the people best-placed to make decisions about Scotland’s future were the people who lived in this country but he was sure “we will do better representing ourselves on the world stage with the full powers of a normal state to reform what needs reformed at home”.

Smith will use his high-profile slot at the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union of Scotland on Monday to outline his claims of the benefits of independence for farming and he has indicated his readiness to answer questions on the issue.

“One thing I’ve always appreciated about the farming brief is that farmers don’t hold back. Nor do I, I’m probably too blunt speaking for a politician but I’m not changing now,” he said.