Rural landowners have been given the opportunity to participate in the national debate on independence in Oban on Friday 2 December, at an event organised by Scottish Land & Estates and rural land and property management experts Bell Ingram with support from chartered accountants Saffery Champness.
The debate, ‘Independence Referendum: How should rural Scotland vote?’, will provide a platform for discussion on the potential pros and cons for rural life and work in the event that Scotland becomes an independent country. Attendees will hear from high profile speakers including Ian Hamilton QC and key members from each of the main political parties – local SNP member Michael Russell, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser, and Arygll & Bute Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid.
Drew McFarlane Slack, Highlands & Islands Regional Manager for Scottish Land & Estates, said, “This event is a great opportunity for our members and guests to join in the topical debate on independence and place it in a rural context. We will hear each party’s thoughts on how rural communities may be affected in an independent nation, and discuss the possible advantages and disadvantages. Scottish Land & Estates is delighted that a range of respected speakers are taking part and appreciates the opportunity to engage directly with them in what is bound to be a very lively discussion.”
Paul Nicoll, Director at Bell Ingram, said: “As Scotland’s leading land and property management experts we have an intimate understanding of the importance of the rural economy to Scotland.
“It is the first debate of its kind to be held in Scotland and is an unrivalled opportunity for landowners to speak one on one with members of the key political parties in an informal setting and address any concerns about government policy they may have.
“Landowners are in effect small rural businesses and it is therefore important that they are considered by political parties when it comes to creating and ensuring the survival of a competitive rural economy for Scotland – no matter what the outcome of the independence debate may be.”
Michael Russell, SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, said: “Rural Scotland is of great importance and it is essential that those who live in the countryside debate the future of the country. I look forward to being part of that discussion.”
Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll & Bute, said: “I am looking forward to the debate. I believe that Scotland benefits from being part of the United Kingdom and that it would be a mistake to separate ourselves from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The SNP’s plans for separating Scotland from the UK are very vague. I hope that the SNP representatives at the debate will be able to give more details about their plans than they have done up until now.”
Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife Murdo Fraser said: “I believe our Union with the rest of the United Kingdom is in the best interests of Scotland. We have a shared history and identity with England, Wales and Northern Ireland and we share the same island. It is the most successful political union in history. The rest of the UK is our largest exports market and I do not believe we should be putting up more barriers with our neighbours. I look forward to discussing this important issue in more detail and hearing the views of the local rural community.”
Ian Hamilton QC, known for his part in the removal of the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in 1950, commented: ““Rural Scotland is already Independent but nobody bothers to recognise it.”
The debate will take place at SAMS Dunstaffnage, Oban from 2pm to 5.30pm. This is the third debate in a programme of events organised by Scottish Land & Estates and follows on from debates on the UK government’s economic strategy and Land Reform.