Rural Yes campaign tour generates interest

Councillor Lenny Pirie, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Alyn Smith MEP at the recent Farming for Yes event in Strichen
Councillor Lenny Pirie, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and Alyn Smith MEP at the recent Farming for Yes event in Strichen
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Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith have been taking the case for a Yes vote next month to the north-east’s farming communities in two local meetings last week.

At meetings in Strichen on Wednesday and Rosehearty on Thursday, the MP and MEP gave speeches and took questions from undecided voters still to make their minds up before the vote.

Both made the point that for Scotland’s agricultural sector to thrive, Scotland needs the full powers of independence within the European Union.

For the next six years, Westminster representation in Europe has delivered a deal which represents a real-terms cut to the funding Scottish farmers receive – including a settlement which leaves Scotland at the absolute bottom of the European league table for Pillar 1 and 2 funding.

In addition, the UK Government have so far refused to hand over £230 million worth of convergence funding which was only secured because of Scotland’s history of poor area payments.

With independence, Scotland’s farmers would be guaranteed a seat at the top table, an increase to our representation in the European Parliament, and the ability to name a Scottish European Commissioner.

Dr Whiteford said: “These meetings were a fantastic opportunity for those in the farming community who haven’t made up their minds to ask questions, and to hear the facts.

“Alyn and I have vigorously fought the corner of our farmers in Europe and at Westminster, however, it is only by giving the Scottish Government the full power to defend our farming interests that we can secure a better funding deal from Europe.”

Alyn Smith added: “The Common Agricultural Policy hasn’t worked as well as it could for Scottish farmers. That’s a reflection of successive poor deals, negotiated on Scotland’s behalf by a Westminster Government which doesn’t prioritise our crucial agricultural sector, and which is ideologically opposed to the idea of subsidising industries – even ones as important as our farming sector.”

“With independence, we could only negotiate a better deal than the one negotiated by Westminster.

“Any deal which leaves our farmers at the absolute bottom of the table for Pillar 1 and 2 funding is simply not good enough – and while I will continue to represent our farming interests vigorously in the European Parliament, the only way to do this more effectively is to untie the Scottish Government’s hands with a Yes vote.”