How would referendum affect Scottish growers?

Growers and retailers north of border worried over second independence vote.

Sturgeon: pressing for a second vote on independence - image: SNP
Sturgeon: pressing for a second vote on independence - image: SNP

The prospect of another Scottish independence referendum is alarming retailers and growers in Scotland, with EU membership clouding the issue. The garden industry generally supported a remain vote during the 2014 poll but Brexit means issues are more complex this time round.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon is pressing for a second referendum three years after the first, mainly because Scots voted in favour of remaining in the EU by 62 to 38% while the majority of the rest of Britain decided to leave.

Perthshire-based Glendoick Gardens director Ken Cox says: "Quite a lot of the people who want Scottish independence want independence from the EC too. So who knows what the outcome of a referendum would be? I'm pro EU and generally not so keen on Scottish independence and not sure which way I'd vote."

Jennifer Brodie of Remin, based in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, says: "One week after the other, my return journeys up and down, Aberdeen to London, were completely seamless - less than an hour-and-a-half in the air each way, with Airbnb providing efficient and economic accommodation. The thought of introducing border controls is dreadful.

"Yes, I am for devo-max for Scotland because whilst business has got its act together, and this applies to Brexit too, it is politics that is messing things up and yet it is business we all depend on - that and the soil."

The 2014 independence vote was 53/47 in favour of staying in the union. Growforth owner Stan Green, who was awarded the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society's Horticultural Medal this month, says a new referendum "could go either way".

He adds that he wants to make sure Scotland carries on dealing with geographically close traditional partners. Voting in 2014 got closer and closer, he recalls, and now, from a more even start, that could mean a leave vote is more likely than three years ago.

Edinburgh-based Dobbies' new chief executive Nicholas Marshall says: "The real trouble was David Cameron giving a referendum turned into, for a lot of Scots, a vote of 'are you Scots or not?' which I think misconstrued the situation. I'm half Scottish, half English, I've lived in Wales for 40 years and I love the Irish. I'm a unionist. I'm very keen Scotland stays in the UK. We have too much shared history." Dobbies has 34 centres split between Scotland and England, with one in Northern Ireland.

Strong horticulture

HTA Scotland and Northern Ireland regional business manager Neil Cummings says "it doesn't matter either way" about a new Scottish devolution vote because strong horticulture in Scotland will continue regardless.

The HTA will launch a horticulture plan for Scotland at Gardening Scotland on 2-4 June, written with help from the HTA Scotland Horticulture Panel. Cummings says the plan will emphasise the importance of horticulture in the nation, with health and well-being, environment, economy and tourism's role detailed within that.

"That work will continue whatever happens," he says, and it is "very much business as usual" in terms of HTA support of Scottish growers and retailers. "Obviously there's a debate in Holyrood over a second referendum and I guess we'll be in a better position to say after that."

Cummings adds that business rates, glyphosate, apprenticeship levies and Brexit are big current issues that he is dealing with on a regional business support level.

The Ornamentals Round Table had an event on future Scottish peat production this week. Scotland is the largest remaining UK producer, with only Somerset bogs remaining in production in England.


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