Agriculture to benefit under Scottish own rule, claims paper

Scotland’s agriculture sector will play more of an important role in the country’s economy if the public votes for independence in the upcoming referendum, a recent white paper has indicated.

According to the white paper, which was published by the Scottish Government on Tuesday, 26 November, to promote an independent Scotland, agriculture is more important to the Scottish economy than to that of the UK as a whole.

The paper claimed that Scottish farmers had been repeatedly let down by Westminster governments, “which have failed to prioritise Scottish farming in domestic policies and in European negotiations”. It also said UK governments have often argued and acted against Scotland’s interests.

“There is also the prospect of agricultural support being cut completely if Scotland remains in the UK,” the paper continued. “Scotland faces the possibility of leaving the EU because of Westminster’s planned in/out European referendum.”

It said that if there was a vote to leave the EU, then Scottish rural industries would no longer be part of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), “and will be in the hands of a Westminster government”, which it feared would present the country with a policy of drastically low or no farm payments.

However, with the powers of independence, Scotland will have direct representation in Europe, the paper said. “We can secure and grow Scottish agriculture’s place in our society and economy for the future. Its in our national interest that we retain the skills and capacity to produce food on our own land.”

New approach to food and drink

Meanwhile, the country’s successful food and drink sector was also highlighted in the paper, which said exports had increased, despite the recession, and were up 52% since 2007.

Alone, the food and drink sector in Scotland turned over £13.1bn in 2011, breaking the country’s initial growth targets six years early. “As international demand for our produce continues to increase, the Scottish Government has already been working closely with industry to support sustainable growth and identify and secure access to new markets,” it said.

The country’s ability to play on the ‘Scottish’ brand was also highlighted, yet the UK’s in/out EU referendum was once again used by the paper to detail why Scotland needs to make its own decisions. It said Scotland’s food and drink sector contributes 18% of Scotland’s overseas exports. “[But] the UK’s in/out referendum on EU membership threatens our food and drink industry’s current access to Europe’s single market of 500m citizens and 20m businesses.

“Independence will boost Scotland’s international profile, delivering new opportunities for food and drink exports, as well as attracting new visitors to our country to enjoy our produce.”