New EU Agriculture Commissioner gets thumbs up from Alyn

Scotland's only voice on the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today voiced his warm approval of the Irish nominee for EU Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan.

The endorsement came after today's hearing with Mr Hogan before the Agriculture Committee where he gave a polished account of himself after three hours of heavy questioning from MEPs.

He undertook to Alyn that a review of the vexed question of Sheep EID remains on the agenda at the Commission and he is open to constructive suggestions. Alyn promised to send him a dossier of suggestions and is now in the process of arranging a meeting with him with a delegation from the National Sheep Association.

He also indicated a clear openness to tackle another vexed question: imbalances in the food supply chain and the power of supermarkets. He said explicitly that the European Commission should be ready to bring forward legal instruments and, in response to questioning from Alyn, voiced his own scepticism that voluntary arrangements can be "patchy".

Speaking after the meeting, Alyn said:

"Phil is good news for Scotland's farmers. Where I certainly had good links to his predecessor, I feel that we will have in the Commissioner a natural ally for Scotland's farmers. It just shows what being a member state can bring, for Ireland to secure this key EU post.

"I promised Scotland's farmers that I will not let EID rest, and I was glad of his promise today to look at ways to improve this legislation. I have already suggested to the Commissioner that I will  get a dossier of suggestions to him and arrange a meeting with a delegation from Scotland's National Sheep Association before the end of the year.

"His comments on supermarkets were intriguing, and he said specifically that he is open to a review of how the market is functioning and up for legal measures to rebalance the market. I'll certainly keep that discussion going, and I share his concern on voluntary measures. Where he used the far more diplomatic word, "patchy", I would, myself, use the rather more blunt, "cynical and ineffective window-dressing", to describe voluntary schemes.

"He was even up for a bit of banter over whether Scotland or Ireland produces the best whisky! All the more to his credit given we all know the answer!"