Scotland politics

Scottish independence: How might a 'Yes' vote impact on farmers?

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When it comes to running a farm, like most businesses, the main issues around the referendum are whether they'll have more or less money.

But unlike other businesses, farmers are often primarily concerned with their future within the EU because such a big chunk of their finances come directly from Europe.

So how good a deal do Scottish farmers get?

And is this likely to be better or worse if the country votes for independence in September?

What money do farmers get from Europe at the moment?

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All EU countries get a chunk of money from the Common Agricultural Policy, which they pay out to farmers. All countries pay into the pot, and they get back a sum depending on the size of their farming industry.

There are strict criteria which farms must meet in order to get hold of this money, such as environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety.

The money is paid to the UK, which then decides how it is divided up between the parts of the UK, so it's the Scottish government which will give it out to farmers. Between 2014 and 2020 Scotland will get about €4.5bn.

The biggest chunk of money under CAP is the single farm payment, which is measured by the hectare.

The more land you own or rent, the more money you receive. Many farms also qualify for extra grants as part of the EU's rural development programme.

Do farmers in Scotland get a good deal?

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The Scottish government says not. In the last round of negotiations it was agreed that any country whose productivity was below 90% of the EU average would receive top-up in their funding.

The UK qualified for this funding - known as convergence - and has divided up the money between England and the three devolved governments.

The UK government says that's a fair decision.

The Scottish government argues that the UK only qualified for the funding because the amount produced on Scottish farms is so low that it brings the UK average down.

Agricultural land covers 80% of Scottish territory but harsh climate, poor soils and mountainous terrain limit land use.

The Scottish government says that Scottish farmers should have got all of the extra funding because they were the ones who effectively "earned" it.

What changes might independence bring?

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The Yes Scotland campaign argues that, if Scotland was measured in its own right, it would qualify for higher subsidies than as part of the UK.

They say they would have a clearer voice at the negotiating table when the EU money is divided up - using Ireland as an example of country with a smaller agricultural sector which gets paid proportionately more.

The Better Together campaign says that Scotland has a much clearer voice at the EU negotiating table as part of the UK, which gets the fifth biggest chunk of EU farm funding.

It also says there is a risk that an independent Scottish state would not be able to join the EU or would be required to "phase in" payments, in line with other countries which have recently joined the EU.

Is it just independence which might impact farmers?

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No, there are other changes on the cards, even if Scotland votes "No".

Talk of a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU brings its own level of uncertainty for farmers.

If the UK was to leave Europe that would have a big impact on the level of funding the government would pay out to farmers.

The payments to each country have now been set until 2020, but there is still a lot of pressure for reform of the whole system, so the payment levels may well be altered at that stage.

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