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21/08/13 12:45

Scotland’s European future

£850 million in missed rural funding shows huge opportunities of independence.

Scotland can look forward to a bright and prosperous future as an independent member of the European Union, First Minister Alex Salmond said today.

In the fourth of a series of keynote speeches on Scotland’s unions, Mr Salmond also highlighted how Westminster’s proposed in-out referendum on the EU threatens Scotland’s continued membership.

The First Minister also pointed to areas like agricultural funding – where Scotland would have been entitled up to £850 million more had it been an independent member – as highlighting the case for Scotland’s membership as an equal European partner.

Speaking in Hawick on the Scottish Cabinet’s summer tour, the First Minister said:

“Scotland is an ancient European nation, and our future lies in partnership with our friends and neighbours as an independent member of the EU.

“Without independence, Scotland’s influence in Europe could diminish further. After 2017, our voice might not just be sidelined; it could be silenced altogether if the UK were to sleepwalk out of the European Union

“If we don’t become independent we won’t have control over what happens.

“It’s an all-too-real example of why it will be better for all of us if decisions about Scotland are taken by the people who care most about Scotland – those who live and work here.

“As a devolved nation, Scotland already has a remarkably good track record of promoting our own, and wider European, interests. But we could achieve much more as a full member. At present we are a constituent part of a much larger state, where our interests can be ignored.

“For example, an independent Scotland could have benefited from a rule that by 2019 no member state would receive less than 196 euros per hectare – approximately £175 - in farm payments.

“Scotland has traditionally had lower payments per hectare and this could have resulted in increased payments to our rural communities worth £850 million pounds over the next 6 years.

“But as part of the UK, Scotland missed out because the UK average payment is much higher, so we could not qualify for the uplift. Despite the differences for Scotland, the UK Government decided to accept this.

“The result is that rural communities and businesses here get less support as a result of decisions made by successive UK governments because the rural economy is not a priority for the UK in the same way that it is for Scotland.

Mr Salmond also spoke about the increasingly important role of smaller states in EU decision making.

With a population of over five million, there are currently 12 other member states of a similar size, or smaller, than Scotland.

“Consider this,” the First Minister added. “Scotland has the longest sea border of any nation in the EU. Yet we have less formal say in fisheries policy than landlocked countries such as Austria and Slovakia.

“Last year, Denmark used its presidency of the Council to lead major reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy.

“Scotland worked closely with Denmark. But we had no capacity to lead reforms in the same way that Denmark could.

“Those countries often wield great influence. After all, the EU is an organisation where negotiation trumps ultimatum; where the strength of your ideas can matter more than the size of your population.

“Not being at the top table has harmed our interests for four decades. Within the UK, we are occasionally consulted. With independence, we would contribute as equals.”

Notes to editors

Over the summer, the First Minister has been highlighting how, following a vote for independence in next year’s referendum, Scotland will continue to participate fully in five unions – the European union, a defence union through NATO, a currency union, the Union of the Crowns and the social union between the people of these isles.

Mr Salmond also spelt out the benefits that independence brings instead of the current political and economic union, which is he said is bad news for Scotland.