Rural Scotland - yes or no?
Rural Scotland is once again the battleground for the independence debate.
At last year’s Royal Highland Show campaigns were launched on both sides of the referendum as they tried to reach out to the farming sector.
While Scotland is a modern, industrial nation, 95 per cent of the land mass is classed as rural, which is home to 18 per cent of the population. In addition, with food and drink playing such a vital role in the country’s economic plans, the farming sector is a key area to win over for both Yes and No.
And just as there are constant questions over an independent Scotland’s future with regards to oil and gas, or the financial sector, so do they remain over how going it alone would affect agriculture – whether it is access to EU funding or selling to the UK market.
Last year Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead gave a thoughtful and detailed speech to farmers on why he believed independence was the right thing for farming, a set of arguments he has delivered several times since then.
This year he will be joined by the First Minister, who speaks today at the event to bolster the Yes side of the argument.
George Lyon, no longer a Lib Dem MEP, but still very much in charge of rural Better Together campaign, will also be speaking at the event and other senior politicians including UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson – who has received a tough time over reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy reforms and the funding that comes to Scotland from the UK pot - will also be there.
One of the central arguments for the No campaign is still that Scotland’s membership of the EU to qualify for vital subsidies, even if only in the short term, is still in doubt.
I grew up in a semi-rural area and farming shows were very much part of the summer, consisting mainly of ploughing matches and marquees and hay bails hastily set up in fields. The Royal Highland Show couldn’t be further from this, an immensely popular event for both those within and from outside the industry it presents the modern face of agriculture –which this year again will include a specific area on renewable energy and farming.
Convincing the agricultural community there is a case for Yes, or they should stick with the Union is as important as convincing the large urban settlements in the Central Belt, the bankers or the oilmen of where they should put their X in September.