ONE of the founders of Yes for Farmers has issued a plea to the Scottish farming community to vote SNP in the upcoming European elections.

Heather Anderson yesterday made the plea in a bid to protect Scottish farmers from the worst damages of Brexit.

Anderson, who is an SNP councillor on Scottish Borders Council and an organic farmer, is concerned that the public are not seeing how exposed Scotland’s farmers are to the problems of leaving the EU. She also fears that farmers will not use their votes if the European Parliament elections go ahead on May 23, as now seems likely.

She said: “It is important to remember that many farmers voted against Scottish independence because they thought it would keep them in the EU. They were sadly mistaken.

“But the EU elections on May 23 gives them a chance to think again and use their vote to protect the future of indigenous food production in Scotland.

She continued: “Farmers in Scotland must now begin to see the writing on the wall. It is now critically important that they put their faith in a Scottish Government protecting and advocating their case in Europe, or else they leave it up to the likes of Michael Gove to decide their future, whilst he is entirely focussed on his own.

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“Voting SNP on May 23 is a chance for famers to take this first step and vote for the future of farming in Scotland.”

Her message to the general public is stark: “Being in the EU is critical for Scottish farmers. Based on our home consumption rates, we have around 15 times more lamb and fish than we eat, so export to our key European markets is vital.

“In addition to exports, farming in Scotland is also completely dependent on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidy from the EU and on migrant labour.

She continued: “About 40% of the EU budget is spent on the CAP. Around £650 million comes to Scotland from Europe every year.

“Along with other European farmers, many of us have been calling for reform of the CAP to make it more environmentally sustainable and accountable.

“But, despite grumbling that 80% of the income goes to 20% of the farmers with the best land – all of us accept that the sudden loss or a significant reduction in this level of support could be catastrophic for Scottish farming.

“Talk of land abandonment has already begun. And the reality for many farmers and crofters is grim.”

Anderson said that recent statistics from RESAS (Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services) show that the average farm business income in 2017-18 was £35,400, which was described as a six-year high.

She added: “Once you remove subsidy, the average income becomes a loss of £7400. Some 40% of farms weren’t even able to pay £7.43 per hour. When you look at where the income is generated in farming, producing food is almost entirely loss generating.”

According to Anderson, the largest source of farm income is subsidy, amounting to an annual average of £36,600 in direct payments and £6100 in agri-environments payments.

She said: “Farming can’t withstand the triple whammy of loss of export market, reduction in farm support and significant scarcity of labour. Brexit demands that Scotland puts farming and food production centre stage. We need to start a civic conversation about how we use our land, how we farm and who we farm for. Food is all of our business.”