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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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Local MP Welcomes Support for YES Vote from Leading Farming Figures

Friday, 15 August 2014

Banff & Buchan MP and SNP Westminster Agriculture spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford has welcomed the support for a Yes vote from four past Presidents of the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS).

John Ross, Jim Walker, John Kinnaird and John Cameron have declared their support for a Yes vote on September 18. All four are convinced that the safety and security of the Scottish farming industry is better served under an independent Scottish Government than by a remote, out-of-touch and unsupportive Westminster.

They gathered at Yes Scotland HQ in Glasgow to urge Scotland’s 65,000 farmers, crofters and growers – as well as the 250,000 others who depend on agriculture for their living - to follow their lead and vote Yes on Referendum Day.

Commenting, Eilidh Whiteford said:

‘These gentlemen have between them many years of experience of leading the NFUS and seeing close-up how UK Governments of all political colours fail to promote the interests of Scottish farming and our rural communities.

‘Their backing for a Yes vote is extremely significant and demonstrates quite clearly that rural Scotland and Scottish agriculture will be best served by an independent Scottish Parliament which is focussed on the interests of our rural communities.’

John Ross, a livestock farmer for 50 years and president of NFUS from 1990 to 1996, said:

‘Farming and rural affairs need to be at the forefront of all future Scottish government thinking – and being fully committed members of the European Union is an essential part of that policy.

‘An independent Scotland is the only way that this can be secured. A No vote will mean years of uncertainty about a UK government’s EU membership and commitment and this will have very serious consequences for the future of Scottish farming.’

Dr John Cameron, who became NFUS first long-term president in 1978 at the age of 39, has represented Scottish agriculture – particularly the livestock sector in many parts of the world – said:

‘Having worked in this industry all my life, I have come to the very firm conclusion that the interests of Scottish agriculture and rural Scotland will be best served by having an independent Scottish Parliament and an independent place as of right at the EU Agricultural Council.

‘The recent decision by the British Minister at DEFRA to distribute to the whole of the UK the Convergence Fund from the EU – which was granted to lift the level of Single Farm Payment in Scotland to the UK average – was completely unjustified and against the legitimate expectations of Scottish farmers.

‘My experience is that the development of agriculture policy has been handled with much better understanding between the industry and the Scottish Government and that this position will only be strengthened with independence.'

Jim Walker, who was NFU Scotland president from 1998 to 2003, said:

‘Food is a key strength of the Scottish economy, especially its rural areas, but remaining in the UK is now a very real risk for our food and farming businesses.

‘The EU is important to the food and farming sector. It provides us with markets and is a source of grants and support. If, as seems increasingly likely, the UK leaves the EU after a promised in-out referendum, the funding that currently comes from Brussels will be left with HM Treasury and Scotland will be much more dependent on its decisions. Worryingly, we know from the decisions the Treasury has consistently taken over the last 20 years, irrespective of the party in power, it will prioritise cutting expenditure on food, farming and rural development rather than encouraging investment. That has been the pattern for years and won’t change now.

‘Independence, on the other hand, will allow us to really back our food and farming sector, set our own priorities and sit at the European negotiating table, no longer affected by the UK Treasury indifference. It will also give our food business the kind of export support to guild their businesses that our counterparts in countries with a similar population, like Ireland and New Zealand, take for granted. Like Ireland, we will continue to sell to England but we will also have our own embassies throughout the world giving priority to promoting Scottish products so that we can build and grow new markets.’

John Kinnaird, who farms in East Lothian and was NFUS president from 2003 to 2007, said:

‘I am voting Yes because I believe this is the next logical process after devolution. Lines of communication with government are much quicker and more focussed.

‘The current UK administration and other political parties lack focus, understanding and leadership on many issues, including EU membership.

‘I am deeply concerned of a backlash against Scotland from Westminster if the vote is No. On September 18 I am not voting for a political party – I’m voting for independence.’

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

‘The decision by four of Scotland's most respected farming leaders to declare for a Yes vote is highly significant and sends a powerful message to not only rural Scotland but the whole nation.

‘These four former NFU presidents are big hitters with a wealth of experience in dealing with UK Governments and Ministers including Prime Ministers in recent decades. They care deeply about the future of their industry and the fact they have reached the conclusion that our key agriculture and food sectors will be better safeguarded and promoted with independence is a momentous moment in the referendum campaign.

‘These men know the industry inside out, and know that Westminster has failed Scottish farming time and again. With the powers of independence Scotland, farming and food will always be a priority with a direct voice in the crucial farming talks in Europe to help secure a far better deal for our food producers and rural communities.’

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