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Agenda: Independence should be meat and drink to the farming community

The mantra "This is a good deal for Scotland" is favoured by Westminster Unionist politicians which, most recently, they have trumpeted in the face of angry reaction from two diverse Scottish industries.

The shipyards on the Clyde have been saved, at the expense of closing Portsmouth. That is what we have been told. Yet almost as many jobs will be lost in Glasgow but we are supposed to be grateful that the Clyde yards won't be closed - yet.

Apart from shedding 850 jobs, what else is being done on a UK basis to safeguard an industry - once the envy of the world - but now on its knees? The remaining jobs have been secured only until 2016, with no clear forward plan as to how to maintain this industry long -term.

A good deal for Scotland?

Recently, Liberal Democrats Alastair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, the MEP George Lyon and MSP Tavish Scott have uttered that phrase. But on this occasion they were using it to tell us how lucky Scottish farmers were to receive extra money from the EU convergence uplift, thanks to Westminster splitting it up fairly between all regions of the UK.

They were desperately trying to deflect attention from the fact that this money was allocated to the UK because of the very low per-hectare payments received by Scottish farmers. It was meant to go directly to Scottish farming. The three other UK countries are already receiving above the EU average, while Scotland now gets the lowest payments per hectare of all member states.

The No campaign argues that Scottish farmers have the highest per-farmer payments, but that is not the recognised method of measurement and fails to take into account the unique extensive farming systems we have in Scotland.

It's precisely these extensive livestock farming systems that make our beef and lamb recognised as outstanding worldwide. The environmental benefits of utilising the hill and peatlands to produce top quality protein from areas that can produce very little or nothing else are also recognised worldwide. There are social, environmental and economic reasons to support farming in the uplands of Scotland, and that is why the EU allocated that money, to try to halt the decline in one of our most internationally respected industries.

The fact that Westminster decided to split the money may mean that Scottish farmers receive less than they should, but that is not the biggest issue to be highlighted out of this debacle.

The pressing matter the farming community in Scotland needs to consider is the total lack of respect for, and understanding of, Scotland's requirements to maintain food production and rural community sustainability. The role of agriculture has never been, nor ever will be, a priority ofthe Westminster government.

It has demonstrated this recently by removing ministerial status from agriculture. One can only wonder what future farming has in the hands of politicians who treat this industry with such contempt. You can imagine the conversation taking place in Whitehall: "Will we give the euro uplift to Scottish farmers? No chance. We kept the shipyards open for now, so no chance."

Fortunately for Scottish farmers, there is a real choice we can make to secure a sustainable future. Edinburgh governments of more than one colour have demonstrated that they understand the importance and contribution agriculture makes to our fastest growing industry - food and drink.

All parties in Holyrood signed a letter to food and rural affairs minister at Westminster Owen Paterson to ensure the EU convergence uplift was paid directly to Scotland's farmers. This was ignored. That should be all the reminder Scotland's farmers need that this level of arrogance and indifference is nothing new.

Scotland has been well served by our Edinburgh parliament. So for ours and the next generation's sake, this should be all the incentive we need to make the right decision on September 18 next year.

Contextual targeting label: 
Agriculture

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