EU membership, the battle for convergence uplift and what currency farmers would be using in an independent Scotland were all up for discussion at a heated NFU Scotland debate in Stirling this week.
Political heavyweights descended on United Auctions to argue the cases for and against independence to a packed out sales ring of 400 farmers, crofters, processors, vets and industry leaders.
Representatives from the Better Together and Yes Scotland campaigns were at loggerheads over EU membership, and the continuation of vital Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) support, in the event of Scots voting to become independent on September 18.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was no doubt Scotland would be accepted into the EU as an independent nation. However Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael warned it was unlikely Scotland would be granted membership with the same conditions it currently experiences as part of the UK.
The two politicians also dealt blows over currency – Mr Carmichael said walking away from the UK meant walking away from the pound sterling. However Ms Sturgeon said it was overwhelmingly in the economic interests of Westminster to allow an independent Scotland to continue using the pound.
The thorny issue of convergence uplift also reared its ugly head and farm minister Richard Lochhead attacked the UK government for not allocating the £190million in subsidy money awarded to top up Scotland’s per hectare direct payments to the Scottish Cap budget.
However, Lib Dem MEP George Lyon said the argument for convergence uplift had not been terribly convincing and it did not go far enough to deal with the problems Scotland faces in moving from an historic to area-based direct payments system.
He was heckled for saying Scotland’s farmers received the second highest per farm payment in the UK, which was in stark contrast to Mr Lochhead’s assertion that Scotland’s farmers receive the lowest per hectare payment in Europe.