Scottish growers start to voice opinions on devolution as referendum date draws near

Sector fears impact of 'yes' vote on independence with one figure warning 'it's potentially lethal for Scottish agriculture'.

Producers: many wary of voicing an opinion on Scottish devolution - image: Brian Forbes
Producers: many wary of voicing an opinion on Scottish devolution - image: Brian Forbes

Leading figures in Scotland's fresh-produce sector have warned of the negative consequences for the sector of a "yes" outcome in the independence referendum, due to be held on 18 September.

Swede and soft-fruit grower and packer Stewarts of Tayside managing director Jim Stewart told Grower: "I'm 100 per cent against, as are most peole I mix with - it's completely unnecessary.

"If we were to go independent it would definitely have negative repercussions. All our customers are UK-based and for them we would become a foreign country. We have a large workforce of around 700 and it would not be good news for them. I can't see the sense in it."

Many Scottish companies have so far been wary of voicing an opinion on the issue, but Stewart added: "If we don't, we may find the boat will have sailed."

Angus Armstrong, chief executive of potato supplier Greenvale AP, which has sites on both sides of the border, said: "With a large percentage of vegetable crops grown in Scotland destined for the English market, it's hard to see what the benefits of independence would be for companies with production bases in Scotland.

"There is a distinct lack of clarity in how cross-border trade would work and this brings uncertainty, which is rarely a healthy thing."

Maitland Mackie, chairman of Mackie's of Scotland, whose range includes Scottish-sourced potato crisps, added: "The last thing Mackie's wishes to become is a foreign company to 90 per cent of our current home market."

Another senior figure in the Scottish industry told Grower on condition of anonymity: "It's potentially lethal for Scottish agriculture. The sooner we get past this madness, the better."

NFUS Scotland has been running a series of debates around Scotland on the pros and cons of independence for agriculture. Its parliamentary officer Clare Slipper said: "It's clear that a lot of farmers feel very strongly either way.

"The same questions come up time and again, about cross-border trade, currency, interruption to the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and how soon we could rejoin the EU, and renewables subsidies."

The NFU itself "does not take a stance on the referendum", she added.

For and against Campaigners' key points

The Farming4Yes campaign says:

- Scotland's proportionally bigger agricultural sector has diffeent needs and priorities.

- Scotland gets a poor deal out of the CAP as the payment regime is determined by Westminster.

- An independent Scotland could build on its international position as a high-quality, high-value producer.

The Rural Better Together campaign says:

- A devolved parliament with power over rural policy already provides "the best of both worlds" for Scottish farmers

- Being a part of the UK supports "thousands" of jobs and rural businesses

- Independence would bring "uncertainty, instability and barriers to business".

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