Royal Highland Show: Nicola Sturgeon says independence would give Scotland greater say in agricultural policy

Re-joining the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would open up the important European market to an independent Scotland – and give the country a say in the wider development of new agricultural policy, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking during a visit to the Royal Highland Show yesterday, the First Minister said while it might not be a case of “jumping straight back into the CAP”, if the SNP won a future vote for independence such a move would help undo “some of the harms” which had been delivered by what she termed the enforced hard Brexit.

She said: "We are seeing so much damage to Scotland generally just now and the farming community in particular caused by Brexit. So yes, I think being back in the EU with a seat at the top table to argue our case and to put forward our interests when it comes to the future of the CAP and common fisheries policy would be a better solution for Scotland than being on the outside of all of that, but still affected by many of the decisions being taken.

"So independence, for me, part of it is about opening up that European market for our food producers and for our economy more generally and working with European partners on some of the challenges we are facing.”

Texel sheep in the judging ring at the Royal Highland Show in Ingliston.Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

But Ms Sturgeon stressed Scotland would still play its part in the UK, just as an independent nation rather than a devolved one – and dismissed suggestions that splitting ties with the rest of the UK was akin to Brexit.

"Independence would be the polar opposite of Brexit,” she said. “It's about not just taking responsibility for ourselves, but using that to play a bigger role in the world. I want Scotland to go back into the European Union and benefit from the biggest single market in the world."

And restating that Scotland had not voted for Brexit, Ms Sturgeon said her party was probably the most pro-immigration in the entire UK, whereas Brexit had been largely fought on an anti-immigration platform.

She also stressed the Scottish Government recognised and “hugely valued” the role that farmers and crofters played in Scottish life and said it wanted to work with them because the success of farmers and crofters was absolutely fundamental to the environment, the economy and to the sustainability of rural communities.

"And that is why when we considered the options for future farm payments, the Scottish Government did take a different approach from our counterparts in the UK Government,” she said. “We have kept basic farm payments, with important environmental elements, because we do recognise the need to support food producers.”

The First Minister stressed her Government was also determined to support producers to the maximum possible extent to address the significant challenges which the sector faced.

During her visit, Ms Sturgeon announced £200 million worth of funding over the next five years for agri-environmental research projects.

The funding will cover an estimated 150 projects, including research into greenhouse gas emission reduction in livestock, crops for vertical farms, vaccine research into animal diseases and work on antimicrobial resistance in the food chain.


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