Blair v Blair on farming: Yes or No – You Decide

Yes campaign chief executive Blair Jenkins and No campaign director Blair McDougall go head to head on farming in Scotland.
Yes campaign chief executive Blair Jenkins and No campaign director Blair McDougall go head to head on farming in Scotland.
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This week the Gazette asked the campaign leaders for their views on the independence debate’s big questions.

Yes campaign chief executive Blair Jenkins and No campaign director Blair McDougall didn’t pull their punches.

And they were only too happy to round-up our independence debate coverage by sharing their views with readers.

In the second of five questions, the two Blairs go toe to toe on Scotland’s farming industry.

Question: What would independence mean for the farming industry, which is a major one here in Clydesdale, taking into account EU membership and CAP payments?

Blair Jenkins, Yes campaign: Yes means better representation for our farmers in the EU. It means levies for livestock raised in Scotland can be used to promote Scottish agriculture – not the produce of our competitors.

And Yes means Scottish food and drink will enjoy a profile in key target markets like never before.

With No we’ll still have Eurosceptic Westminster selling Scotland’s farmers short and face the threat of an in/out referendum.

With Yes we can ensure Scotland has its own voice and gains the maximum benefit from EU membership. For example, had we been independent at the last CAP talks, Scotland would have been entitled to an additional €1 billion in CAP Pillar 1 funding by 2020 and in addition could have negotiated around €2.5 billion extra Pillar 2 funding!

Independent EU membership will be negotiated from within, with talks to deliver a smooth transition completed ahead of independence in March 2016.

A great number of experts – including Graham Avery, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, and former European Parliament President Pat Cox – agree Scotland’s membership will continue with Yes, while Professor Charlie Jeffery notes that “the overwhelming body of expert opinion is that Scotland’s EU membership will be uninterrupted.

Blair McDougall, No campaign: If we leave the UK, we would need to apply to rejoin the EU. That puts at risk the things farmers in Clydesdale enjoy today as part of the UK.

One of the major issues surrounding agriculture and the referendum is the amount of CAP funds Scottish farmers receive. The average combined CAP payment for each farmer in Scotland is higher than any other part of the UK.

The average payment a Scottish farmer receives is five times higher than the average across the EU. Scotland receives £25,800 per farmer.

If we separate from the UK, which means leaving the EU, CAP receipts would stop. Any continuation of current levels of funding would require funding from the Scottish national budget of between £550 and £600 million per annum. That means other spending would have to be cut or farmers would lose out.

Whatever the route to rejoining the EU, there are no guarantees that a separate Scotland would continue to receive the same level of payments that we do now.

For this to happen Scotland would need to successfully negotiate that we should receive a higher allocation of receipts than some existing Member States. This would be very unlikely.

Look out for the remainder of the questions answered by the two Blairs every hour, on the hour, until 8pm tonight.