SNP Support For Agriculture Policy Overhaul Proposals

20 June 2008

Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has welcomed proposals from the European Commission, unveiled to the Committee today in Strasbourg by Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel, to overhaul the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Mr Smith has welcomed in particular measures to safeguard farming in vulnerable areas, the abolition of set-aside and moves to put Scots farmers on a more level playing-field with the rest of Europe.

Mr Smith has also published an initial summary of the complex proposals. This briefing is reproduced below as a note to editors.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Smith said:

"On balance, this is a small step forward but not as good as we had been expecting, and it is clear that certain member states have been working hard behind the scenes. This is in contrast to the agriculturally-illiterate UK position that the CAP should be abolished, which was roundly ridiculed, not even attacked, ridiculed, in the Committee by the Commissioner saying "He (UK Chancellor Alasdair Darling) is not my darling". The damage done to the UK's credibility in these talks by that shoddy piece of megaphone diplomacy cannot be overstated.

"There remain concerns over how progressive and compulsory modulation will play out, and I will be seeking commitments that any increase in compulsory modulation be matched by decreases in Scotland's voluntary modulation, otherwise Scotland's farmers will continue to work at a structural disadvantage.

"The Commissioner confirmed that set-aside is finished, and this has to be welcomed. I am satisfied that the environmental spin off benefits of set-aside will be adequately safeguarded by actual environmental measures. Equally, the new rules on Article 68, the new article 69, will need to be tested to destruction before we foist them on Europe's farmers. Moves to phase out milk quotas are also sensible, though we must ensure they are stuck to.

"All in all a solid enough starting point, and with a deadline of November for the Parliament to take a formal position on the proposals I look forward to a heavy few months."