Airyolland Farm

Farming and The Scottish Referendum


Neale McQuisitn

For Farmers Weekly March 2014


Opening up Farmers Weekly  14th March edition felt like popping into a sweetie shop. Everything that I enjoy was in there.  Chat about coupled payments for English sheep farmers from Stephen Carr and Nancy Nicholson’s analysis on Scottish independence.  I enjoyed reading them both.

I have to confess, that neither article swayed me from my present thinking on sheep or politicians.    You should always shun any idea that encourages you to keep more of any of those two species than is good for you.   Once you go beyond an optimum number, none of them will do you any good.   To corrupt an old adage about sheep, ‘a politician’s worst enemy is another politician’.


As soon as the Scottish parliament was established we were immediately into a situation where Scotland had more politicians than it needed.  I have some sympathy for Stephen Carr here as our Scottish MPs, who are no longer needed, are part of the establishment in Westminster that works to deny England’s beef and sheep farmers their coupled payments.  At the same time our autonomous MSPs in Edinburgh work away to secure coupled payments for Scotland’s farmers.


There is something fundamentally wrong about that situation but unfortunately we can’t turn the clock back.  The Scottish parliament is well established and if its politicians are working in favour of Scotland’s farmers then they are to be celebrated.  It’s the other ones in Westminster that need to get the heave-ho.


NFUS recently organised ‘The Big Debate in Scotland 2014’.  Held in the auction ring at UA’s mart in Stirling it brought together Nicola Sturgeon, Richard Lochhead and Jim Fairlie for the Yes campaign to debate with Alistair Carmichael, George Lyon and Peter Chapman who are in favour of ‘Better Together’.


The question about currency was, as you can imagine, discussed at length with the aggressive stance adopted by the Westminster parties being brandished about to ’encourage’ the family to stay together.  I could be wrong but, “I’ll cut you off without a pound”, will be one sure way to drive off a family member.


However, the Better Together side took, what can only be described as ‘a tanking’ over the convergence uplift issue. My MP, Alistair Carmichael, that is no longer necessary in Scotland but still answers to his master in Westminster and our MEP, George Lyon could find nowhere to hide on the subject of Scotland’s poor position at the bottom of all lists of area based farm support in the EU.


The threat from the ‘No’ camp of Scotland finding itself left outside of the EU has also lost all its potency.  UKIP has holed that argument well below the water line.  No one seriously believes that Scotland will not continue in Europe after a yes vote but there is very real concern among Scotland’s farmers that they will be dragged out of Europe against their wishes.  To then find ourselves totally at the mercy of someone like the UK’s Owen Paterson, a man described by Stephen Carr in his column as, “a Tory right winger who makes no secret of his distaste for all farm subsidies” is enough to make a Scottish farmer’s porridge curdle.


One last thing about the big debate and it touches on a subject that I covered in a column just recently regarding the dearth of women in top positions in leading farming organisations.


With all due respect to the gentlemen who debated in Stirling mart the person who looked most at ease was Nicola Sturgeon.   The case for encouraging more women to come forward into leading roles was never better endorsed.

Around the ring after the meeting some claimed a draw many saw it as a win for the Yes campaign.  There were very few claiming a good night for Better Together.



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