Delivering his keynote address to SNP conference today, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, highlighted how if Scotland votes yes to independence, Scottish farmers could be better off by £6000 per year. And he contrasted this with the UK’s “utterly appalling” track record in “standing up for Scotland in Europe“.
According to Mr Lochhead, Scotland receives the lowest level of farming payments in the UK and the 4th lowest in Europe. But that could be very different if Scotland was a member state of the EU in her own right. He said: “A new funding formula is being proposed for farming payments that could eventually deliver a massive uplift of £150m a year for Scotland – that’s nearly £6000 for every farm in Scotland“.
Admitting that he’ll be missing the Depute First Minister’s speech to conference on Sunday to fly out for vital Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy negotiations, the Cabinet Secretary indicated he has to “fight for Scotland’s farmers with one arm behind my back!“. He criticised the UK Government for continuing to deny the Scottish Government “access to farming negotiations when they reach the end game, when the real political horse trading takes place” and he claimed that the UK “often refuses to listen to Scotland, to put our case, to deliver a fair share of the budgets, or to even let us in the room“. This, he added, “illustrates why every farmer and crofter…needs to vote “yes” to having our own seat at the table in Europe!“.
Mr Lochhead also outlined new funding for a Think Local initiative of £2.5 million over three years to support activities which spotlight Scotland’s outstanding natural produce. Think Local will include the £1.5 million Community Food Fund and will also encompass the National Food and Drink Forum. The aim of the scheme is to champion local food, by supporting projects and events across Scotland and its remit will include developing new local food networks, expanding Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, creating signature food events for Homecoming Scotland in 2014, and providing new support for farmers’ markets.