As the independence debate hots up, a former NFU Scotland president claims a new survey of producers shows the industry wants to remain within the UK.
Former farmer George Lyon, now a Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP, says 72% of those responding to his survey of Scottish farmers in receipt of Single Farm Payments said the country should remain part of the UK.
Mr Lyon said: “At present, Scottish farmers benefit from free access to a big home market and membership of the EU with key opt-outs on the Euro as part of the UK. We share in the progress that has been made on the economy and can work together to support the Scottish industry at home and overseas.
“Scotland’s place in the EU is not only vital for farmers, but also for jobs and for growth. I want to see Scotland remain a strong voice in Brussels, and the best way for us to do that is to stay part of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Lyon sent questionnaires to 16,000 Scottish businesses in October last year and received 1,846 replies by December 20.
He said 75% of respondents expressed concern over the impact splitting from the UK could have on EU agricultural support, 79% believed continued uncertainty over currency would harm their businesses and 72% expressed fears that independence would make it more difficult for Scottish farmers to sell their produce to customers in the rest of the UK.
He said: “It is not scaremongering to ask about plan B for agricultural support if independence were to leave Scotland out in the cold. Scottish farmers need to know what any delay in EU membership would mean for their direct support and rural development payments.”
But Coldstream-based SNP Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat blasted the MEP’s claims: “Mr Lyon can’t get away with dressing up a highly loaded survey as a poll. This exercise had very leading questions which also failed to deliver a representative response from the sector. Given there are actually in the region of 23,000 active farmers and more than 8,000 further active crofters as well... it would be completely wrong to extrapolate from those responding.”
Mr Lyon should read the Scottish Government’s White Paper “to make himself familiar with the clear position of the Scottish Government on use of the pound in a post-Independence Scotland, and maintenance of Scotland’s membership of the European Union, with over 500 million customers,” said Mr Moffat.
“Farming for Yes was launched at the Border Union Show last summer by and with the support of genuine farmers, who understand that only by having a direct voice in Europe will Scotland gain full access to agreed convergence of funding rates under CAP, which will see direct payments to farmers harmonised at €196 per hectare, at the Member State level. Under the UK Government, we have been negotiated to the bottom of the league table on both direct payments to farmers (Pillar 1) and rural development (Pillar 2) and Scotland has missed out on €1.0 billion between 2014 and 2020 because we are not a member state in our own right.”