Political heavyweights debate EU referendum

Two political heavyweights have driven forward the debate on what the forthcoming EU referendum could mean for Scottish farmers and crofters.

Supporting the UK’s ongoing membership of the EU was European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan while favouring ‘Brexit’ was former Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson MP. The pair addressed an audience of around 200 when NFU Scotland staged an event titled: ‘In or Out: Implications for Scottish Food and Farming’ at Ingliston, near Edinburgh last night (19 May).

After presenting their cases, a captivated, lively audience challenged the politicians on wide range of subjects including impact on the vote on trade and the Scottish brand, the implications for direct support, regulation on the industry, adoption of new technology and dealing with market volatility.

The event was chaired by NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie, who said afterwards: “A robust debate amongst our board of directors and wider membership looking at the economic arguments around the EU has seen NFU Scotland come off the fence in favour of remaining ‘in’ the EU at the current time. That is a position shared amongst other UK farming unions.

“However, we have been crystal clear that a robust, informed debate on the subject must be had and, importantly, we will not be making any recommendations to our members on how they should use their vote on 23 June.

“This hugely successful debate, driven by two passionate speakers and a dynamic and lively question and answer session, will help voters attending last night to take a more informed decision on where to place their cross on the ballot paper.

“Last night’s debate was the only event that NFU Scotland will be hosting directly for its members ahead of polling day, and it was gratifying that so many of those attending took the opportunity to challenge both of our panellists.

“Even those following the event on twitter using the #bigEUdebate hashtag got the chance to question our excellent speakers – a first for an NFUS debate.

“We are now less than five weeks from the vote. Given that the referendum will clash with the first day of the Royal Highland Show, we continue to encourage all farmers and crofters planning to attend Scotland’s biggest agricultural event on Thursday 23 June to ensure they are registered for a postal vote by 8 June at the latest.”

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