SCOTTISH farmers would have enjoyed an extra £1 billion in European subsidies if the country was independent, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said in a keynote speech today.
The money would come through additional support from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) between 2014 and 2016, compared with farmers’ current deal under the Westminster system.
Mr Lochhead was setting out the benefits of independence for rural Scotland at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh today.
Alistair Darling head of the pro-union Better Together campaign was also present along with members of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservatives to launch the pro-union rural Better Together campaign.
Mr Lochhead insisted Scotland could also benefit from additional rural development cash by prioritising spending in this area – as nations like Ireland have already done.
The SNP cabinet secretary said: “If Scotland had been independent when the latest CAP budget was being decided, we would have benefited from a rule that – by 2020 – no member state would receive less than an average of 196 euros per hectare in direct payments.
“With independence between 2014 and 2020 our farmers would have received an additional 1 billion euros of support. The message is simple, the Westminster system is denying Scotland’s farmers money. With every £1 of output from the agricultural sector generating an additional 80p in other parts of the Scottish economy that would have been a widely shared benefit. This is funding which could help to transform the lives of those living and working in rural Scotland.”
The cabinet secretary added that independence would “transform” rural Scotland into a more prosperous, better connected country, with faster broadband for all, fairer fuel prices and more influence.
He said: “We could follow in the footsteps of Sweden, where they auctioned their 3G mobile licences to maximise coverage and ensure a good service to all their communities, creating a nation-wide connectivity hot-spot.
“Devolution has already brought many benefits for rural Scotland – protecting our rural schools, fighting tooth and nail for a fair deal for our fishermen and farmers and empowering communities through the community right to buy land fund.
“With limited powers, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government have proven that we can shape policies that are more closely aligned to the needs and aspirations of the people of Scotland. But, with a full set of powers and responsibilities, we can do even more. I firmly believe Scotland’s true potential has yet to be unleashed.”