Salmond Looks To New Era For Scotland In Europe

11 May 2006
Call for europe-wide green energy research centre for Scotland

SNP Leader, Alex Salmond MP, has today [Thursday] addressed the General Assembly of the European Free Alliance (EFA) in the Hemisphere of the European Parliament in Brussels. Mr Salmond set out a new approach for Scotland in Europe with the election of a Scottish government led by the SNP after May 2007 and highlighted the positive impact small nations can make within the EU.

Among his priorities for an SNP administration in 2007, Mr Salmond set out proposals for the creation of a Europe-wide EU Renewable and Clean Carbon Energy Research Centre, headquartered in Aberdeen, which will be a central focus of Scottish ministerial lobbying in the EU over the term of an SNP government.

Mr Salmond said:

"Scotland's future is as a full, independent member of the European Union.

"Europe is changing, Scotland is changing. The Estonians had tanks on their streets 15 years ago now they have more influence in the EU than Scotland, one of Europe's most historic nations.

"I look at the 25 flags above me and do not see my own. Scotland could do so much better than we do now. If the European Union of 25 tells us anything it is that with 14 states in the EU smaller than Scotland, independence is more important now than ever.

"Looking around Europe today, at the success of small member states including Ireland, Finland, the Czech Republic and Baltic States it is clear that full membership offers the greatest opportunities for Scotland, and for the other nations represented here today.

"With a seat at the top table of Europe, nations can speak up more effectively for their national interests, protect key industries and sectors, and succeed in creating new opportunities for economic growth.

"If anyone suggested that Ireland's interests in Europe would be better served by being represented by London and the UK, they would be laughed out the room. And yet, remarkably, in the current Scottish Executive, they still believe that Scotland should stay silent while British ministers take the lead.

"Next year, I intend becoming the new First Minister of Scotland. SNP success in May 2007 will open the door to a new era for Scotland in Europe, for a new relationship with the EU.

"It will be a time when Scotland starts to speak for herself and Scotland's voice is heard.

"An SNP government in Edinburgh will not be taking orders from the UK government in London, but instead will take every opportunity to speak direct to our partners across Europe and ensure Scotland's ideas, concerns and views are heard more clearly in the Commission, Parliament and Council of Minister.

"As part of this step forward, in my first 100 days as First Minister, I will press for Scotland to take the lead in negotiations on fisheries in the EU. With the UK's predominant fishing industry, it is a disgrace that Scottish Ministers are little more than bystanders in the most important ministerial discussions.

"My focus will be on winning the best deal for Scotland within the EU and as part of that an SNP administration will set a clear target to bring new European investment to our country.

"Scotland has 25% of the EU's offshore wind potential. We have 10% of EU wave and 25% of EU tidal potential ­ indeed the Pentland Firth has been described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power.

"Alongside this huge natural advantage in renewable power, Scotland also has some of the world's leading sites and technologies for carbon capture and storage, using and enhancing recovery from depleted oil reservoirs under the North Sea.

"With all this natural advantage, Scotland should be at the forefront of Europe's green energy revolution. That is why I will make the creation of an EU Renewable and Clean Carbon Energy Research Centre, based in Scotland, a central focus for an SNP led Scottish government.

"Aberdeen, with its expertise and experience in offshore technologies, would be the ideal location for such a centre. This will build on the expertise in the existing Energy Technology Institute to make that initiative not just pan Scottish but pan European.

"In the first 100 days of an SNP government, Scottish ministers will begin a series of meetings with the Commission, the UK government and with our partners and friends across the continent to deliver this ambitious project for our nation.

"I firmly believe that Scotland has an important role to play in the future of the EU. Independence will open the door to full participation, but next year, with a real Scottish government, representing Scottish interests first and foremost, our nation can take some big steps forward.

"Today London and Labour have created an artificial ceiling for Scotland. They talk our nation down, when the lesson of Europe is that the sky is the limit for ambitious, successful small nations like our own.

"The SNP has a proud history of engagement with Europe ­ led by Madame Ecosse herself, Winnie Ewing. It is my determination to build on this tradition, so Scotland not only wins friends across the European Union, but begins to enjoy the full benefits offered by this great partnership of nations."