South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has highlighted SNP plans to push forward a ‘rural renaissance’ with the powers that would come to the Scottish parliament following a Yes vote.
Ms McAlpine welcomed comments from SNP Rural Affairs spokesman Richard Lochhead setting out a 10 point plan – including Access to Scotland’s fair share of EU farming, fishing and rural development funds; managing the Crown Estate in Scotland for the benefit of local communities; and establishing a more business-friendly environment for small employers.
Mr Lochhead confirmed that Following a Yes vote, a rural commission will be established to make recommendations on how the Parliament’s new powers can be used to promote rural development.
Ms McAlpine said:
“Rural issues are a much greater priority in Holyrood where a majority of MSPs represent rural areas unlike Westminster where rural Scotland has little representation.
“A victory for Yes next week will lead to a rural renaissance in Scotland given that many of the political powers that affect the rural economy will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament where rural issues are much bigger priorities.
“ By giving our farmers, crofters and fishermen a direct voice in Europe to help secure better deals and by acquiring regulatory powers over broadband, mobile phone reception, postal and parcel delivery services, the Crown Estate, energy and taxation, we will be able to promote rural development like never before.”
“Scotland could have received around €3.5 billion in additional European funding if we had been independent during the most recent Common Agricultural Policy talks.
“Independence will present a huge financial opportunity for Scottish farming and rural Scotland as a Yes vote means that an independent Scotland will be able to negotiate on its own behalf at the next round of EU Common Agricultural Policy talks when they begin in 2017.
The comments come as two leading international experts in rural issues, Professor Mark Shucksmith and Professor John Bryden, have also called on rural Scotland to vote Yes in next week’s referendum.
Commenting Professor Shucksmith said:
“I have worked with, and studied, rural communities in Scotland over many years, and I have seen the energy and capability which people in rural Scotland can bring when given the opportunity – exhibited notably in the community land reform movement.
“If I were still living in Scotland I would be voting ‘Yes’ for independence, largely because independence will give Scots more chance of living in the sort of country they want to live in, and more say in deliberations about what characteristics, priorities and values should underpin this.
“For me, these include social justice and solidarity, protecting the NHS, a strong welfare state and a vibrant and inclusive public sphere. Given such values, and the right support and powers from an enabling state, of whatever political party, rural areas of Scotland have great potential to flourish in years to come.”
Commenting Professor Bryden said:
“A vote for Scottish independence represents the one best chance to build a new and stronger social democracy in Scotland, based on a wide choice of political parties, and coalition government along Norwegian lines. If my hopes – and the hopes of many others I know – are realised, then I believe that rural people in Scotland will face a better future, and have more voice in that future, than would otherwise be the case.
“Westminster government has been government by an elite, reinforced by the second chamber, the House of Lords, and the first-past-the-post electoral system. By comparison with Norway and much of the rest of western Europe, it has also been highly centralised.”
Mr Lochhead also set out ten rural gains which would flow from an independent Scotland.
A stronger voice for Scotland in key EU farming, fishing and environment talks.
· Access to Scotland’s fair share of EU farming, fishing, rural development, environment and forestry funding.
· Place the environment at the heart of a written constitution.
· Use fiscal powers to encourage farm tenancies and new entrants.
· Managing the Crown Estate in Scotland for the benefit of local communities – with 100% of seabed income for coastal & island communities.
· A more business-friendly environment for small employers – through control of full range of fiscal powers.
· Improved digital connectivity – via powers on mobile spectrum licenses.
· Secure universal service obligation for postal deliveries via bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership.
· Use the levy income from our farming and fishing industries to boost Scottish industries – not our competitors.
· Reduce rural fuel poverty by removing £70 a year from household energy bills on a permanent ongoing basis.