Independence would boost food and farming firms, says Wheelhouse

Paul Wheelhouse.
Paul Wheelhouse.

The Border Union Show was “buzzing with discussion” about the independence referendum, according to Paul Wheelhouse.

The SNP was at the Springwood Park showground to highlight “the huge potential of Scotland’s food and drink sector” under independence.

Mr Wheelhouse, the South of Scotland MSP from Ayton in Berwickshire, said: “The Border Union Show is always a tremendous event. The only difference this year is that as well as all the farming, food and drink and entertainment on offer the show is buzzing with discussion about the opportunity to vote Yes in September.

“Scotland’s food and drink sector has performed well with the limited powers of devolution – and the tourists love it - but it can do even better with independence.

“The food and drink industry’s target set in 2008 to increase exports by £5.4 billion by 2017 was met six years early. This highlights the international demand and potential that exists within this sector.”

Farmers have delivered a vote of no confidence in Westminster after a poll showed that 100% of respondents believe that the role of DEFRA secretary is “so ineffectual that it doesn’t matter who takes up the post”, the SNP said.

Mr Wheelhouse, the Scottish government’s environment secretary, added: “Our rural communities have had a raw deal from Westminster, and with this poll Scotland’s farmers have delivered a resounding vote of no confidence in the Westminster government.

“Westminster just doesn’t understand the needs of our rural communities, and as a result they are massively disadvantaged on a range of issues.

“If Scotland was already an independent member of the EU it would have benefited from an extra E1 billion of support coming to Scotland in direct farm payments over the Common Agricultural Policy convergence period - instead Westminster has negotiated Scotland to the bottom of the CAP funding league.

“And if we had negotiated a similar deal to Ireland’s, Scotland could have secured an extra E2.5 billion of rural development funding from 2014 to 2020 - compared to just half a billion we will receive under Westminster.

“With a track record like this it is absolutely no wonder that Scotland’s farmers are fed up with Westminster and voted unanimously against ineffectual DEFRA.

“With a Yes vote Scotland will have a seat at the top table in Europe and will be able to secure a better deal for our farmers - in stark contrast to Westminster’s record of failure.”

Better Together has pointed to another poll earlier this month which showed “farmers in Scotland overwhelmingly reject separation”.

George Lyon, chairman of Rural Together, said: “It’s encouraging that Scotland’s farmers are saying No Thanks to separation.

“Being part of the UK single market is essential for our farmers. Having access to a market of over 63 million people in the whole of the UK, rather than just five million people, is good for farmers and rural communities in Scotland. Only separation puts that at risk.”