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Scottish farming fears mount as Brexit debate intensifies

Scottish agriculture would be crippled without the subsidies provided by Europe, leaving producers seriously disadvantaged if the UK voted to break away from the union on June 23.



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Scotland’s agriculture chiefs reiterated their support for the ‘stay’ campaign as Farming Minister George Eustice and Defra Secretary Liz Truss came out on opposite sides of the Brexit debate this week.

 

’Out’ vote would cost millions

 

Former Scottish MEP George Lyon told the NFU Conference in Birmingham an ‘out’ vote could cost the farming sector millions ‘through a messy divorce’.

 

“We are better off inside a reformed Europe than standing alone and isolated outside,” said Mr Lyon, who reiterated Scotland would hold another independence referendum if the UK chose to break away from the EU.

 

“For us the CAP is far from perfect but at least it gives us a level playing field on farm support, safety nets at times of crisis, access to markets and the same rules on SPS and marketing.

 

“It ensures UK farmers are not disadvantaged against the vast number of heavily supported and protected agriculture sectors around the world.”

 

Continued investment?

 

Mr Lyon said it was doubtful that, in the event of a Brexit, Governments would continue to invest the £3.2 billion which agriculture currently received.

 

NFU Scotland parliamentary officer Clare Slipper agreed the financial implications would be detrimental to Scotland’s farmers.

 

“Farmers would prefer to farm without the financial support they receive from the EU,” she said.

 

"But the reality is the marketplace is failing to deliver fair returns and the CAP – set up to deliver food security, environmental and economic benefits – has become more vital to all European farmers in the current volatile times.

 

"In the event of Brexit, what level of support could farmers and crofters expect domestically?”

 

Effects

 

Ms Slipper said farmers also required more information on how trading arrangements with the rest of Europe would be affected.

 

She added: “Would Scotland be able to continue to trade tariff-free with Europe or would our lamb, beef and other key farm exports face a tariff barrier?

 

"Would access to important overseas markets remain or would the UK have to start over again in negotiations?"

 

Next generation

 

Sarah Allison, Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs agri and rural affairs chairman, said it was vital the next generation heard a clear and reasoned debate of the positives and negatives of EU membership, ‘as ultimately it will be them who is living and working with the consequences’.

 

Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, who spoke at the NFUS AGM earlier this month, described Europe as ‘a shield which protects Scottish farm payments without which much of our industry would be shattered if the United Kingdom votes to leave Europe’.

 

Farmers attending the Royal Highland Show, which falls on the same day as the referendum, have been urged to consider postal votes.

 


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