SNP accused of a 'kick in the teeth' to rural communities ahead of independence paper debate

MSPs are set to debate the Scottish Government’s latest independence paper today.

Scottish ministers have been accused of delivering a “kick in the teeth” to rural communities by opting to debate independence over upcoming agriculture legislation.

The Scottish Conservatives said farmers will want to know the contents of the Agriculture Bill after the consultation closed in December.

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Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon previously said the Bill will be introduced to Parliament “this year”, but did not clarify when.

The Scottish Conservatives have attacked the SNP for apparent lack of movement around the Agriculture Bill.The Scottish Conservatives have attacked the SNP for apparent lack of movement around the Agriculture Bill.
The Scottish Conservatives have attacked the SNP for apparent lack of movement around the Agriculture Bill.

The Agriculture Bill is expected to include aims to achieve a 31 per cent reduction in agriculture emissions by 2032 and could include financial support for rural development and modernising tenant farming, but on Tuesday, the Scottish Government will use its parliamentary time to lead a Holyrood debate on plans for a written constitution in the event of Scottish independence.

During it, the SNP will challenge Scottish Labour to back their proposals for which would protect the right to strike and a free-at-point-of-need NHS.

Rachael Hamilton, rural affairs spokeswoman for the Tories, said ministers are using the final week of the parliamentary term on “misguided priorities”.

She said: “Nothing better illustrates Humza Yousaf’s misguided priorities than wasting a chunk of the final week of the parliamentary term on an independence debate.

“It’s yet another kick in the teeth to rural Scotland that this divisive and self-indulgent debate should take precedence, yet farmers remain in the dark as the Agriculture Bill is kicked down the road again.

“The consultation on this Bill opened last August and closed in early December, yet shamefully farmers still don’t know the contents of legislation that will hugely affect their livelihoods.”

She added: “Three months into the job, Humza Yousaf has realised that the only way he can quell the infighting in his scandal-ridden, warring party is to double down on the one issue they all agree on: trying to break up the UK.

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“As a result, the real priorities of the Scottish people – the global cost-of-living crisis, NHS waiting times, and our rural way of live – are cast aside while he devotes all his energies to the SNP’s obsession.”

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP and former transport minister, said it was time for Scottish Labour to back the government’s proposals.

He said: “Keir Starmer has rolled back on almost every principle he once claimed to champion as he tries to punt his Tory tribute act to voters in England - if Labour want to salvage any credibility on democracy, rights and equality then they will back the plans for a written constitution to enhance citizen’s rights.

"Put simply, the UK's current constitutional arrangements are not good enough. It does nothing to protect our health service or workers' and citizens' rights which we see Westminster governments take advantage of, with creeping NHS privatisation and ripping away the right to strike.

“Independence offers the people in Scotland the chance to create a permanent, modern, written constitution that puts their rights at the heart of Scotland's democracy. This should be above party politics.

"I hope to see all MSPs backing these proposals today which put the values of the people at the heart of our society.”

Deputy leader of Scottish Labour, Dame Jackie Baillie, said the SNP were guilty of a “pathetic attack” by a party failing to deal with a cost-of-living crisis and an NHS crisis.

She said: “The fact is that while the SNP blow hot air on enshrining the NHS in a constitution, tens of thousands of Scots are languishing on waiting lists and A&E is overwhelmed.

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“Under the SNP’s watch, private health care usage has soared as patients cannot access NHS care. The truth is that the biggest threat to the NHS is the SNP.

“The people of Scotland need a government focused on their priorities - but all the SNP want to do is protect the Tories from a Labour government and wax lyrical about independence in a vain attempt to keep their jobs.

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