FM to lay out vision for rural communities in an independent Scotland

Scotland could have received around €3.5 billion in additional European funding if it was already an independent country, the First Minister will say later today.

Alex Salmond will tell delegates at the Royal Highland Show that an independent Scotland would have received around €1 billion of additional direct support for farmers during the most recent Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) farming talks.

And, had an independent Scotland negotiated a deal similar to Ireland’s, it could have secured an extra €2.5 billion in rural development funding between 2014-2020 – far more than the half a billion we will receive under the present set-up.

It comes after the UK Government negotiated Scotland to the very bottom of the European league tables for CAP funding.

The First Minister will say:

“If we were currently independent, Scotland would have won the Euro billions jackpot and amassed a massive sum to develop our rural communities but, instead, as a direct consequence of having the UK Government negotiate the CAP deal on our behalf, Scotland and our rural communities have lost out massively.

“The UK Government condemned Scotland to the lowest payment rates in Europe. They negotiated an atrocious deal for Scotland and failed to prioritise the needs of our farmers and rural communities.

“As a result, Scotland has had to work with a reduced budget by no fault of our own, but in liaison with stakeholders, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has managed to put together a CAP package which protects and supports rural Scotland. It is a fair allocation made under difficult circumstances.

“However, it could and would be very different in an independent Scotland. We would have a direct voice and seat at the top table in Europe, have a stronger negotiating stance and be able to win a deal which best suits our rural communities. Had we been in control of our own destiny and been able to secure a similar deal to Ireland, this would have given us about €3 billion of rural development funding in total until 2020 – far more than the half a billion that we are actually getting. For our country to miss out on such a crucial source of funding is completely unacceptable.”

The First Minister will add that had Scotland been able to negotiate its own deal, it would have allowed greater flexibility in how it allocated its rural development spend.

He will say:

“An extra €2.5 billion is a huge sum of money which would have allowed us to spend more on a range of areas. For example, we could have quadrupled the budget for our crucial food and drink sector, a key economic driver for Scotland. We could have trebled both the vital support for new entrant farmers and our agri-environment budget to enhance Scotland’s protected sites. And we could have doubled the budget for those farmers to enhance support for those in the most remote areas.

“It is incomprehensible that Scotland is losing out, and, by Scotland, I don’t mean the Scottish Government. It is our farmers, crofters and rural communities – the stewards of natural Scotland. It is our rural businesses, the agricultural supply chain, families and communities who are missing out on billions of pounds because we have no direct representation in Europe and are represented by UK Governments which consistently fail to secure a fair deal for Scotland. Indeed, we have calculated that this entire additional subsidy would support an additional 5,500 jobs and bring in £1.7 billion in Gross Value Added over the 2014-20 period.

“As an independent country, this level of rural development funding would have been in Scotland’s reach along with an additional €1 billion in direct farm payments.

“Independence will give Scotland a direct voice in Europe for the next round of CAP negotiations, and the ability to secure the best possible deal for our farmers, crofters and rural communities.”

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