Farmers in an independent Scotland would qualify for generous funding grants under the auspices of European Union membership, a leading Scottish minister has claimed.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government's cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment said Scotland should be reaping the benefits of European Union membership, and drew attention to the British government's unfair approach to the common agricultural policy (CAP).

"If Scotland had been independent during the most recent EU farming talks we would have qualified for an extra €1bn of funding - Scotland's billion euro boost," he said.

Lochhead claimed that agriculture was worth more to the Scottish economy as a whole, relative to the rest of the United Kingdom, and the country's agriculture sector would be much better served if Scotland was a sovereign state within the EU.

According to a Scottish government document, in 2011 just over £32bn ($52.3bn, €38.4bn) was produced in the rural regions of Scotland which represented approximately 30% of total output for the Scottish economy, excluding gas and oil.

Lochhead claimed that an independent Scotland could have benefitted from an EU rule that by 2019 no member state would receive farm payments of less than €196 per hectare (about £175); worth a billion euros over the next six years.

Lochhead also said Scotland would have been able to negotiate a much better deal under the rural development section of the Common Agricultural Policy, where countries of a similar size to Scotland have used their direct voice in Europe to secure hundreds of millions of pounds of additional rural development funding.

"This money would have benefitted our farmers and the Scottish economy as a whole - including our rural communities and the whole farming supply chain. Agriculture is comparatively around a third more important to the Scottish economy than to the UK's as a whole, and it is distinctive. Indeed with every £1 of output from the agricultural sector generating an additional 80 pence in other parts of the Scottish economy, the whole country loses out."

The member of Scottish parliament said independence would empower politicians to advance the interest of Scottish farmers at a European level without interference from London's political class.

"We would also have had the opportunity to join 16 other EU countries in negotiating hundreds of millions of euros more in rural development funding - funding that we could invest in rural tourism, environmental protection, broadband and renewables, and start-up assistance for young farmers," he added.

"The UK Government has negotiated a worse deal for Scotland - negotiating Scotland to the very bottom of the European funding league tables. As if that wasn't bad enough, the UK qualified for a €223m uplift because of Scotland's low payments - but instead of that funding coming to Scottish farmers, in line with the wishes of the European Union and Scottish Parliament, it was divvied up across the whole of the UK.

"Only with the powers of independence, and direct representation in Europe, we can empower our rural communities to secure and grow rural Scotland's place in our society and economy," he said.

Alex Salmond echoed Lochhead's claims: "I believe that Scottish terms of membership of the European Union would not allow €1bn to be taken away from our rural industries as the UK government has done. Scotland is a European nation. Resource-rich Scotland would be welcome. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that," he said.