Sunday, June 22, 2014

Farmers and Scottish independence

Some farmers are passionate about Scottish independence out of personal conviction, but many are cool about the idea. They are uncertain whether it will bring the claimed benefits, particularly given the importance of English markets.

The Scottish National Party argues that Westminster has done a poor job of representing Scotland's farming interests in Brussels. As a result, they argue, Scotland has missed out on billion of pounds in EU subsidies. However, others argue that lower levels of per acre subsidy reflect the low farming value of much of the land in western Scotland.

Farmers account for just 65,000 people out of a total Scottish electorate of four million, but both sides in the referendum debate see them as opinion leaders in rural communities and exerting a influence in the key food and drink industry.

Meanwhile, both sides in the referendum debate are rushing to support EU 'protected geographical status' for Ayrshire early new potatoes. This status has already been secured for Arbroath smokies, Scottish salmon and Stornoway black pudding.

There is a broad income range in Scottish farms with the gap between the richest and the poorest farms amounting to £102,000. The bottom 25 per cent of farms saw a loss of £14,000 in 2013 while the top quartile averaged a farm business income (effectively net profit) of £88,000.

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