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Scottish independence - Yes or No?

As Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May go head-to-head in the battle for Scottish independence, Abi Kay speaks to two farmers with very different views on whether a second referendum should be held.   


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Scottish independence - What do farmers say?

With calls for Scottish self-determination growing ever-louder in the wake of Brexit, it is unclear how long the Prime Minister can hold off a fresh independence referendum.

 

But what would the break-up of the UK mean for farming across the four nations of the union? Scottish hill farmers Jim Fairlie and Peter Kennedy give their opinions.

 

Despite Mrs Sturgeon facing criticism for being unable to say which currency an independent Scotland would use earlier this week, Perth lamb and beef farmer Jim Fairlie told Farmers Guardian the case for independence was stronger now than it has ever been.

 

Finished

 

He said: “Hill farming will undoubtedly be finished if we remain in the UK.

 

“Ruth Davidson [leader of the Scottish Conservatives] has already stated the legislative authority will lie with Westminster, Andrea Leadsom [Defra Secretary] wants butterflies instead of sheep on the hills and George Eustice [Farming Minister] is backtracking on his promise of an even bigger support package for agriculture.”

 

Mr Fairlie also raised concerns about Scottish farming losing 7.5 per cent of its current cash spend if it was funded through the Barnett formula and said he could not trust the UK to give Scotland a good deal given its decision to share EU money allocated to Scotland equally between the four UK administrations.

 

Anti-Scottish

 

“Compare this anti-Scottish farming attitude to the current Scottish Government’s commitment and support to agriculture and you clearly see independence is essential for Scotland’s farmers”, he added.

 

But Peter Kennedy, a sheep farmer from Argyll, said the case for independence was weaker this time round because of a massive drop in oil prices which were crucial to nationalist financial projections in 2014.

 

“Our biggest consumer is England, so if we suddenly find we are out of the UK and have tariffs on goods going to England, it would be quite worrying”, he added.

 

“If we were in the EU but out of the UK that would definitely make things difficult.”

 

Bogus

 

Mr Fairlie, however, denounced this argument as ‘completely bogus’.

 

“It completely overlooks the fact that the rest of the UK sell more into Scotland than the other way around”, he said.

 

“Having to choose one single market or the other is nonsense, an independent Scotland would trade with both. Are they really telling us the UK is talking about trade deals across the globe, except with Scotland?”

 

Preserving the rest of the UK was another concern for Mr Kennedy, who said he worried about Wales breaking away next.

 

Great deal

 

“If the Scots are allowed, why would Wales not leave, especially if we are going to be given this great deal Nicola [Sturgeon] talks about. I do not see Europe allowing it either – I do not think we would get in under favourable terms. There would be a lot of negotiating to do.

 

“There is so much uncertainty over the next couple of years, even to know what kind of Brexit deal there will be. I do not think it is helpful to the industry at all.”

 

But for Mr Fairlie, any short-term uncertainty seemed to be a price worth paying.

 

“If Scotland’s transition position is in the EEA, we have free trade with the EU”, he said.

 

“We can have our own trading arrangements with the rest of the UK and we will not be subject to the Common Agricultural Policy, so there is a lot to be excited about from a Scottish farming perspective.”


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