In the run up to the referendum Cabinet Secretaries will be holding a series of public Q&A sessions across Scotland, as well as holding a number of Cabinet meetings outside of Edinburgh.
On Friday the 1st of August at 7.30pm Mr Lochhead will take part in a public Q&A session on the Scottish Government’s blueprint for independence, Scotland’s Future, at Annan Community Centre – the event will be free to attend but ticketed and places can be reserved by calling 0300 244 2114.
On Saturday August 2nd the Cabinet Secretary will attend the annual Dumfries show, held at The Show Field, Park Farm, Dumfries.
Last week Mr Lochhead announced Scottish Government plans to set up a Rural Connectivity Commission after Independence to consider how to improve issues such as mobile and broadband coverage, postal services and transport links for rural communities.
The Commission paper set out five areas where independence would improve rural connectivity including; improved digital connectivity, fairer parcel and delivery charges, better transport links, fairer fuel prices and taking steps to achieve the true potential of rural renewables.
In June the Cabinet Secretary announced a new package of measures to support Scottish farming, food production, rural communities and the environment – Including A £45m three-year beef improvement scheme and tough new rules to ensure only genuinely active farmers are entitled to direct payments.
The programme was drawn up to ensure the fairest distribution of Common Agricultural Payments (CAP) Scotland currently receives from the EU to support rural economies after the UK Government negotiated Scotland to the very bottom of the European league tables for CAP funding.
Scotland would have received around €1 billion of additional direct support in the most recent settlement if it were an Independent country.
Welcoming the Cabinet Secretary’s visit local MSP Joan McAlpine said:
“I am delighted to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to Dumfriesshire. This event will give people the chance to hear more about the benefits of Independence for rural and farming communities across the south of Scotland as well as providing the opportunity to ask questions about the issues that matter most to them and I would strongly encourage as many people as possible to come along.
“It is no secret that farmers and those living in rural communities are being hurt by Scotland’s regional status in the EU and the UK Government’s failure to secure a good deal for Scotland.
“An extra €1 billion is a huge sum of money which would have allowed us to spend more on a range of areas. For example, we could have quadrupled the budget for our crucial food and drink sector, a key economic driver for Scotland. We could have trebled both the vital support for new entrant farmers and our agri-environment budget to enhance Scotland’s protected sites. And we could have doubled the budget for those farmers to enhance support for those in the most remote areas.
“Indeed, we have calculated that this entire additional subsidy would support an additional 5,500 jobs and bring in £1.7 billion in Gross Value Added over the 2014-20 period.
“All of these measures would have made an enormous difference to my constituents living in the south of Scotland and still can.
“Independence can give Scotland a direct voice in Europe for the next round of CAP negotiations, and the ability to secure the best possible deal for our farmers, crofters and rural communities.”
Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment will be hosting a public Q&A event in Annan on Friday 1 August to answer the questions which are important to you around Scotland’s Future and the Scottish Government’s vision for independence.
The event will be held at Annan Community Centre, Annan, between 7.30 and 9pm. The event is free but ticketed
The Cabinet Secretary will be attending the annual Dumfries Show on 2nd August, held at The Show Field, Park Farm, Dumfries DG2 7LU, from 10 AM.