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Take the high(land) road

Posted on June 17, 2013 by

Last week the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, found himself accused of ‘politicising’ this year’s Royal Highland Show, by giving a speech there on the potential benefits of independence to the farming community.


Lib Dem spokesman Tavish Scott (pictured above) complained that:

“The SNP’s decision to politicise this year’s Highland Show is regrettable. Taxpayers’ money is being used to give a nationalist a political platform to rubbish the UK. The Highland Show should be a platform for Scotland’s livestock and food – not for constitutional politics.”

Most of the papers, however, were quick to point out the apparent glaring hypocrisy of the fact that ‘Better Together’ would also be campaigning at the event, and launching a special ‘No’ campaign for farmers called ‘Rural Better Together’ at an event scheduled to follow just minutes behind Mr Lochhead’s address.

The Lib Dems hastily tried to dig themselves out of the hole by alleging that the Scottish Government was attempting to “outdo grassroots discussion with a taxpayer-funded platform to rubbish the UK”, but their claims of a “grassroots” movement were undermined when the Farmers Guardian reported that Rural BT will not only be chaired by Lib Dem MEP George Lyon but also “formally launched by former Chancellor Alistair Darling, who is leading the campaign against Scottish independence.”

But as we’ve said, the hypocrisy was so obvious that the mainstream Scottish media couldn’t avoid pointing it out, with the Herald and Record both running stories to that effect. What we’re more concerned with is the underlying claims made about Rural BT in the first place.

One such assertion was made by Mr Lyon, saying it was essential that the views of Scotland’s food and farming sector were heard in the referendum debate:

“As part of the UK our food and farming industry benefit from open access to a big home market of 63 million consumers and real influence on the European stage. Independence would leave Scottish farmers competing with Ireland to export products into England and the rest of the UK. Scottish farmers would be foreigners trying to get into that market and having to discount to do so”

But the truth of the matter is that access to that “home market” is guaranteed under the rules of the European Economic Area (EEA) in the agreements covering free movement of goods, services, capital and people within all EU states plus the three EFTA states (Norway, Liechtenstein, & Iceland).

This free trade zone is the largest in the world and covers more than 500 million consumers across the continent, regardless of whether they are “foreigners” to each other or not. Access to it is of immeasurably more importance to the Scottish economy than remaining in the UK, which as we draw closer to 2017 seems hell-bent on removing itself from the EU – and the EEA with it, unless it can reach an arrangement with the EEA countries.

Even in the event that they didn’t renegotiate membership of the EEA, the (r)UK would still need the products it had previously been importing, as there wouldn’t be domestic production for these goods – if there was, after all, they’d be produced and sold domestically in the (r)UK already without the need for importing.

Rural Better Together vice-chair and former NFUS vice-President Peter Chapman pushed the envelope of plausibility further by suggesting that an independent Scotland would have no power in Brussels – despite having its own representation in the EU parliament and its own ministers directly representing Scotland in negotiations – because Scotland would lose the ability to “shape” UK negotiating positions:

“As part of the UK we benefit from a big home market and our Ministers have the power to shape UK negotiating positions in Brussels. Many of those I speak to share my view that we do not want to put these things at risk.”

It’s hard to believe that Scottish farmers would swallow the notion that the policies of the UK would realistically be “shaped” by the needs of Scotland were they to ever conflict with those of the UK, given the size disparity and historic focus on southern constituencies in previous negotiations. (They might, for example, want to check it with representatives of the fishing industry.)

Far be it from us to speculate, but perhaps that’s why the No campaign is so alarmed by the prospect of anyone from the Scottish Government coming to the RHS and getting the chance to speak to them directly.

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    48 to “Take the high(land) road”

    1. theeforsakenone says:

      Bar the big Tory voting farm landowners, I don’t see ‘Rural Better Together’ getting much of a welcome from Scottish farmers, much less highland ones.

    2. fitheach says:

      Sniff, sniff… what is that smell from Better No or is it drifting over from the bull?

    3. MajorBloodnok says:

      BT = BullshiT

    4. Doug Daniel says:

      theeforsakenone – aye, with both sides of my family being of farming backgrounds, I’ve always been fairly confident in the support for independence amongst farmers, although we shouldn’t forget that there’s more of those Tory voting landowners than we might think – Jimmy Buchan got a massive swing from the SNP to the Tories in 2010 when Dr Eilidh Whiteford stood in Alex Salmond’s old Banff & Buchan seat.
      Mind you, there’s every chance these are exactly the sort of Tory voters who actually support independence…
      I know there are opportunities that Scottish farmers miss out on just now because of the UK’s EU rebate, which stops them being able to access EU funding that other member states can. I hope more is made of this as the campaign goes on, because it’s important farmers realise they’re being stiffed because of Tory England’s obsession with a rebate that amounts to little more than trying to get one over the French.

    5. Bar the big YellowTory voting farm landowners like Tavish Scott, I don’t see ‘Rural Better Together’ getting much of a welcome from Scottish farmers, much less highland ones.
      (With apologies to theeforsakenone)

    6. MajorBloodnok says:

      Surely a Scottish Government Minister is entitled to address the public relating to his departmental remit on any aspect of Scottish Government Policy? 
      As for the so-called rebate – it’s just a way for control of EU regional monies to be centralised in Westminster.  You used to see signs up for EU Regional Development Funded projects particularly in the west, but I’ve not seen them for years, in the same way you do when you are in Europe.  Another Union dividend about to be swept away.

    7. handclapping says:

      Jeez, the Rev goes AWOL and the site collapses into chaos rather like BBC Scotlandshire. He’ll need to sack the picture editor unless she’s the resident cartoonist though.
      Ever thought why your first foot should be a tall dark handsome man? Does it mean that the most feared Vikings were squat, blond, ugly women?

    8. MajorBloodnok says:

      I won’t hear a word said against Sandi Toksvig.

    9. Doug Daniel says:

      “Surely a Scottish Government Minister is entitled to address the public relating to his departmental remit on any aspect of Scottish Government Policy?”
      To be fair, unionists still haven’t gotten to grips with the fact that the SNP have now won TWO elections fair and square, so we can hardly expect them to understand something as complicated as the fact that independence is government policy, and that it’s the government’s job to promote its policies.

    10. Atypical_Scot says:

      Are cattle getting the vote?

    11. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      Atypical_Scot says:
      17 June, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Are cattle getting the vote?

      Only if it is a postal one.

    12. Dramfineday says:

      For shame – what’s the poor coo done to be called a name like that? (Otherwise a very good article).

    13. Jiggsbro says:

      For shame – what’s the poor coo done to be called a name like that?
      It didn’t need to do anything. The Rev’s well known as a moosogynist.

    14. theycan'tbeserious says:

      “Rural Better Together vice-chair and former NFUS vice-President Peter Chapman pushed the envelope of plausibility further by suggesting that an independent Scotland would have no power in Brussels – despite having its own representation in the EU parliament and its own ministers directly representing Scotland in negotiations – because Scotland would lose the ability to “shape” UK negotiating positions:”
      What has been Scotland’s ability to “shape” the UK…its negotiating position and/or policy?  Maybe Scottish Farmers should be asking Peter Chapman if in the past he has been representing the interests of his members or those of wasteminster? 

    15. MajorBloodnok says:

      Miscoogynist, shirley?  Discriminator against all coo kind.

    16. Atypical_Scot says:

      Can’t abuse the cattle when there’s so much at steak.

    17. matos 21 says:

      For Roddy Macdonald
      Sorry could not post this on your site for some reason

    18. Jiggsbro says:

      Miscoogynist, shirley?  Discriminator against all coo kind.
      It’s okay to have a beef with my vocoobulary, but don’t milk it.

    19. Luigi says:

      O/T – sincere congratulations to Justin Rose for winning the US open. Of course, the news was all over the BBC this morning as “the first Englishman to win the US open since 1970”! They just can’t help themselves, can they?

    20. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “It’s okay to have a beef with my vocoobulary, but don’t milk it.”

      I’m getting tired of these cow puns. There’ll be trouble if there’s anudder one.

    21. Murray McCallum says:

      Increasingly irrational for farmers to always back Tories.  Article points out EU withdrawal but also in my experience a Tory controlled council looking to build mass burn incinerator in countryside (in an area where farmers had invested years obtaining organic certifications).

    22. scottish_skier says:

      There’ll be trouble if there’s anudder one.

      A ‘pat’ on the back for that one Rev.

    23. handclapping says:

      How can one be tired of cow puns? You can get a discount on anything with them.

    24. Albert Herring says:

      Those cow puns are kine of lame.

    25. scottish_skier says:

      Are cattle getting the vote?

      I should hope so. They won’t have forgotten what thatcher did with their milk.

      Anyway, I just hope farmers aren’t shoehorned into this by BT.

    26. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      Will they vote on the hoof?

    27. HandandShrimp says:

      Of all the Bitter Together crowd they don’t come a lot more bitter than Tavish. However, why he doesn’t direct his ire at the Coalition for the Lib Dems woes is beyond me.

    28. Midgehunter says:

      It’s an opun contest while the vicars away.
      … or as the coo said to the farmer “We’ll soon meat again”

    29. MajorBloodnok says:

      I’m keeping schtumm.  Seen, but not herd.

    30. AlexMcI says:

      O/T good luck for the launch of the yes campaign, Hamilton . Was looking forward to going To it, unfortunately we have a mini crisis on our hands in my household. Anyway hope it gets a great turn out at Low Waters miners welfare club

    31. Vronsky says:

      MajorBloodnok says:
      17 June, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      “I won’t hear a word said against Sandi Toksvig.”
      Nor should you.  She is the manifestation at the classical level of a quantum phenomenon – a mathematical extreme, a hypothesised point on a discontinuous curve where imaginary value intersects maximum prominence. 

    32. scottish_skier says:

      Will they vote on the hoof?

      Hard to say; it’s not an even field. They’re not sheep though.

      For dairy farmers it’s much more of a black and white issue.

    33. Arabs for Independence says:

      The coo had a wee calf and  the horse had a weak mare

    34. Clydebuilt says:

        So oor Sandi’s a singularity!

    35. Clydebuilt says:

      Thought the Gent behind the coo is Harold Wilson.

    36. EphemeralDeception says:

      It is extremely easy and provable to show to Farmers why we are not better together.
      Defra incompetence at a UK Gov Lab in 2007 let Foot and mouth escape and spread across the UK.
      Disease control is a UK reserved area.
      Animal welfare is under Scottish control.
      Defra compensated English and Welsh hill farmers but refused Scottish ones despite Defra negligence being responsible.  The Scottish government decided to compensate Scottish hill farmers out of our own fixed budget.
      Not only that but Gordon Brown did a U turn and decided to only compensate English farmers over a weekend since he bottled the election. Brit Scots are clearly the enemy within.

    37. KraftyKris says:

      That last link in the article is quite interesting, there is a lot of info on the electricscotland site regarding independence.
      I personally benefited from being an EU citizen when living abroad and have always seen being a member of the EU as a good thing, however, after reading that fishery article I am not so sure anymore.

    38. Shinty says:

      Sorry, but switched off after Historically Scotland has benefited greatly from the Union in 1707″

    39. Jamie Arriere says:

      I wonder how many farmers are happy currently having to truck all their cattle to English abattoirs. Livestock is one of our major products/exports and yet we don’t have a single abattoir!! Another union dividend!!
      By the way, I hear that Hearts are considering going into cattle farming – provided they can find a byre…..

    40. Jiggsbro says:

      there is a lot of info on the electricscotland site regarding independence.
      I like the idea that we’ve benefited from the Union because “10 Prime Ministers of Great Britain have been Scots”. That’s nearly 20%! It would be churlish to point out that if we’d been independent, close to 100% of First Ministers of Scotland would have been Scottish. But at least it’s an attempt at the PCftU.

    41. Peter says:

      Jamie you really need to post facts, there are two abattoir’s in Inverurie although there are plans for a new one at Thainstone and I am sure there are others around the country. Are you not confusing the lack of pig processing plants? although I think Tulip have plans for a site at Brechin.

    42. GP Walrus says:

      The Liberals can punt out shameless hypocrisy until the cows come home.

    43. KraftyKris says:

      Jiggsbro and Shinty, try getting past the spiel of opinion and concentrate on the facts & links they provide. I definitely don’t agree with everything they say but it was the fishery article that Scott linked to that got my attention. It’s a bit long and not the easiest to read but lots of interesting information nonetheless.

      The site is a bit hit or miss but there are plenty of links to useful articles on many areas, including EFTA, EEA, PFI/PPP and the McCrone report. I like it because it tries to provide arguments from both sides of the debate, possibly a good place to send someone for info if they are just starting to think about the referendum. I know a few people who have been put off by sites like this & newsnet because they are so one sided (this isn’t a dig at your site Rev, just an observation).

    44. MajorBloodnok says:

      Clydebuilt says: Thought the Gent behind the coo is Harold Wilson.
      And I won’t hear a word said against Barbara Castle either.

    45. Tony Little says:

      Thanks for the link.  I left a comment (it’s pre-mod, so not sure they will publish) to the effect that they seem to mistake the referendum for a vote on SNP policy.  Why does this STILL seem to be a ‘block’ in the minds of so many people? 
      For info I wrote:
      Thank you for this, I am sure it will be of use. However, I would make one point about your introduction, the referendum is about the future governance of Scotland, which may or may not result in the election of the SNP as a majority or coalition governing party. So their specific POLICY statements mean NOTHING to whether you want to have Independence or not, as following Independence Scottish voters can elect a party to lead them based on the manifestos presented. Personally, I would prefer an eventual Scottish currency. I have no problems with being in the EU (we are in NOW!) and it is our largest market and potentially a huge market. I am open to being convinced about EFTA options. But this is futile without Independence. Until Scots can elect directly THEIR government, all other conjecture is pointless. Otherwise I look forward to reading more. Good luck
      I will probably drop by the site occasionally. 

    46. Shinty says:

      I apologies if my comment offended you, but anyone who describes Scotland as having ‘benefited greatly from the 1707 Union just makes me plain mad. Any ‘benefits’ Scotland may have had with the Union are seriously outweighed by the damage caused.

      I am still undecided on the EU, but if we decide to renegotiate our terms we have massive bargaining chips to Scotland’s advantage. Fishing is just another area where Westminster ‘sold the family silver’ which puts to bed another reason why the EU would not snub Scotland’s entry into the EU and would welcome it with open arms and I think Spain for one will be the first in the queue and bend over backwards to accommodate us.

    47. Paul says:

      Scott Minto is branching out eh…not just a football pundit 😉
      I do agree though.

    48. KraftyKris says:

      No offence taken shinty, I didn’t write the website. I just thought it was a decent attempt at collating information regarding the independence debate from a fairly neutral standpoint, the fishery article being a good example.

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