Ms McAlpine made the comments while speaking in a parliamentary debate last Wednesday about the importance of the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Scotland.
As part of the UK, Scotland is currently at the bottom of the funding tables for Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 CAP payments – If Scotland had been an independent country when the latest CAP budget was decided, Scotland’s farmers would have been €1 billion better off by 2020 -funding that could have supported 2,500 jobs.
The SNP MSP said:
“An area like Dumfries and Galloway – that accounts for a well-above-average share of Scotland’s dairy and beef herds and agricultural holdings would surely be at the front of the queue for an improved CAP.
“It also stands to reason that my constituents would be well placed to benefit from a substantial proportion of that €1 billion uplift and an above-average percentage of the 2,500 rural jobs that the Scottish Government has calculated the extra billion would create.
“Instead the UK has failed to negotiate an acceptable agricultural budget allocation, leaving Scotland with the lowest Pillar 1 and 2 CAP funding of all the EU nations.”
During the debate, Ms McAlpine also spoke of the anticipated knock on benefit increased agricultural funding would have for other sectors and businesses integral to the south of Scotland economy.
“It is not just our farmers who are missing out. Agriculture is integral to many tourism enterprises and has a major impact on food and drink both in terms of processing and direct sales.
“Despite all of this, the Westminster Government are arguing to drastically reduce or even end farm payments altogether – that would be a disaster.”
“Scotland’s priorities are not Westminster’s but Westminster Ministers represent us in Europe.
“With independence we could negotiate fairer Pillar 2 payments, as other member states have done. For example, Ireland managed to negotiate €2 billion – 85% of the UK’s total despite having an area of agricultural land around 25% of the UK total.”
- Approximately 10 per cent of the working population of Dumfries and Galloway are employed on farms and the region has roughly 40 per cent of Scotland’s dairy herd, 19 per cent of its beef cattle and 15 per cent of its sheep.
- The text of the Scottish Government motion for last Wednesday’s debate is as follows: Motion S4M-08857 Richard Lochhead: Common Agricultural Policy—That the Parliament notes the importance of the new EU common agricultural policy to Scotland in helping to deliver viable food production and sustainable management of natural resources; welcomes the publication of two Scottish Government consultation documents on its implementation and notes that these are based on detailed and extensive discussions with stakeholders; recognises the complexity in implementing the policy changes adopted by the EU; supports the Scottish Government’s determination to ensure that future farm payments are made on the basis of active land; agrees that the options available to the Scottish Government to implement the proposals are further limited due to the poor budget settlement from the UK Government, which failed to recognise Scotland’s distinct needs and confines it to the lowest per-hectare funding in Europe for both direct funding and rural development, and welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to seriously consider issues raised during the consultations and to take the right decisions for the future of Scottish agriculture prior to the final implementation.
- A copy of the official report of the debate can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=8904&mode=html#iob_80343
- The Scottish Government analysis which shows 2’500 jobs benefit for independent Scotland can be read here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Scotland-s-EU-future-845.aspx