Euro News Monthly April 2010

I never thought the words: "I can't get to work because of Icelandic volcanic ash" would ever pass my lips. But as the adage goes there is a first for everything and I found myself grounded in Edinburgh. So Iceland has helped cripple the world economy and now shut Europe's airspace, who says small countries can't do anything?! I have, however, used my time on the ground wisely and I have been doing what I enjoy the most and what politics is all about: campaigning and chatting to constituents on their door steps.

In other news this month, I welcomed assurances from EU Health Commissioner John Dalli (whose remit covers animal transport) that the European Commission will work with NFUS as they put together a report on animal transport. I was also pleased to see the Commissioner emphasise the importance of uniform enforcement of existing legislation across the EU.

Last week, the SNP set out the party's commitment to Scotland's farmers and rural communities. SNP candidate Mike Mackenzie and Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead and I met with farmers and food producers in Argyll and Bute whilst campaigning in the constituency. Scotland's farmers needed local and national champions at Westminster. Each and every SNP MP elected on May 6th will champion Scottish causes and ensure the needs of Scotland's farmers and rural communities are understood in the Westminster parliament.

The Greens - European Free Alliance logo

EU Funding Boost for the Borders

Last week, Smith hailed the announcement that over £4 million is to be invested in job creation and economic recovery in the Borders.

Grants have been made to:
  • Scottish Borders Council (Scottish Borders Rural Business Site Development) £943,500
  • Scottish Borders Council (Galashiels Transport Interchange) £2,112,221
  • Scottish Enterprise (Gretna, Lockerbie, Annan (GLA) Business Space) £736,010
  • Scottish Enterprise (Heathhall Industrial Estate, Dumfries) £351,338

The money, allocated by the Scottish Government from the European Regional Development Fund, totals £17.4 million and will be invested in urban regeneration and rural development projects, helping to create around 950 new jobs across Scotland. Smith said: "This is a real benefit to the local economy in the Borders, and is particularly welcome during this tough economic climate."

Smith Seeks Emergency EU Aid for Scotland's Sheep Sector

Smith wrote to EU Budgets Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski this month, seeking access to some of the 200 million euro EU emergency fund on behalf of Scotland's sheep farmers. The fund exists under the EU's "Flexibility Instrument" and as such stands alone from any other EU budget, and is available at relatively short notice for areas or industries suffering unexpected difficulty.

Smith has made a plea on behalf of Scotland's sheep sector following the particularly harsh winter:

"I think the case for emergency aid for the sheep sector is clear given the real, unexpected and severe impact the winter has had on stock.

"The Flexibility Instrument will need to be accessed via a request from the UK Minister, given Scotland cannot as yet speak directly with the EU. However, with Whitehall paralysed I'm not going to hang about, and have raised this with the Commissioner myself, and we can sketch in the details of the application later.

"And even if we are turned down, at least we're trying, and I'll knock on every door I can to access assistance for Scotland's farmers."

SNP MEP & Candidate Tour Turriff Businesses

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford was joined by Smith and local councillor Sandy Duncan on a visit to local businesses in Turriff earlier this month.

Mr Smith, who is a member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, was invited by Dr Whiteford to visit businesses in the local area which are of vital importance to the rural economy. Among the businesses visited were Turriff Fuels and Harbro Farm Services.

Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith commented:

"It was good to meet Mr Cassie and hear about his successful local business.

"It was also very useful to hear from his perspective as a fuel supplier, the effect of fuel prices on his customers.

Speaking after the visit, SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford said:

"Rising fuel prices have put households under intense pressure this winter. The SNP has proposed a Fuel Duty Regulator, a simple mechanism that would ensure that as oil prices rise, the tax rate falls. Introducing a Fuel Duty Regulator would help reduce this unfair tax burden on our local businesses."

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