Now that the big hitters in Scotland’s food and drink industry have given the thumbs down to independence, what do Scottish farmers say? Like every other interest group, they are divided.
The main issue is, of course, money. The Yes campaign argues that Scottish farmers would have got a bigger chunk of CAP money had Scotland been independent over the past few years and, if they win the referendum, they will get even more up to 2020. The No campaign points out that the UK gets the fifth-largest share of EU farm subsidies and that there is no certainty that, divorced from the UK, Scotland would get as good a deal. In any case, the whole CAP system of subsidies will sooner or later have to be reformed so there is no longer-term certainty about anything.
“In what currency does Scotland propose to sell its food and drink?”
All this, however, depends on Scotland’s future membership of the EU - which remains problematic. Scotland would have to re-apply for membership under Articles 48 or 49 - experts differ on which one. Either way, the negotiation of entry terms would be complex and protracted, the results of which would have to be ratified by all member states. It took 10 years for Croatia to gain membership. Why should Scotland be different?
One can also envisage more than one state with an autonomy-seeking minority within its borders being none too keen on Scotland’s admission. Even if ultimately successful, the uncertainty involved would discourage long-term investment in the food and farming sector, especially if the UK government presses ahead with its ill-advised referendum on EU membership.
In what currency does Scotland propose to sell its food and drink exports to the rest of the UK and the EU? Evidently not the euro and, according to messrs Cameron and Osborne, not sterling either. As 70% of Scottish exports go to the rest of the UK, the only practical alternative is a new currency that would shadow the pound. But as the Scottish economy is highly cyclical, exporting could well become a more uncertain business.
The Yes campaign has long been inspired by a dream. But, in Christina Rossetti’s words, “The hope I dreamed of was but a dream and now I wake, exceeding comfortless.”
Kevin Hawkins is an independent retail consultant