Euro News Monthly April 2011

Aileen McLeod and Alyn lambing in Newton Stewart

SNP candidate for Galloway and West Dumfries, Dr Aileen McLeod and I spent a day lambing at a farm in Newton Stewart this month. Local farmer Neale McQuistin, was kind enough to show us the ropes and kept us busy! Scottish farmers do a good job of keeping their MEPs informed but I don't think you can beat getting your hands dirty to build a real understanding of the main concerns and problems.

I spoke at the 2011 Pact of Islands Conference & Signing Ceremony which took place in Brussels as last week. The Pact of Islands is the political commitment of European Islands to developing Local Sustainable Energy Action Plans with the aim of meeting or exceeding the EU sustainability targets for the year 2020. The project is led by the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar). Scotland has a significant role to play in the future of EU Energy policy and this conference demonstrated to other island regions the potential for sustainable energy development across the EU.

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MEP Calls on Social Networking Sites to Promote Gaelic

Alyn, an alternate member of the Parliament's Culture and Education Committee has called on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to include Scottish Gaelic as a user language option.

Facebook is currently available in 70 languages, including Welsh, Irish Gaelic and four varieties of English. Twitter currently only offers seven language options but plans to add more languages by the end of the year. Gaelic Google, Wikipedia and Mozilla have recently been made available and now Alyn is calling on social networking sites to include Gaelic as a language option.

Alyn said:

"Facebook and Twitter are great social tools for connecting people but it's important they become more accessible internationally and promote minority languages such as Gaelic.

Principal, Professor Boyd Robertson from Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Gaelic College said:

"Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has embraced recent developments which enable the use of Gaelic within ICT and we congratulate those individuals who have worked to ensure that Gaelic speakers and learners can access these tools in their own language."

Smith Welcomes Committee Vote on Bluetongue Rules

This month, Alyn welcomed a committee vote to give Member States the flexibility to make the use of vaccination against bluetongue easier for animals outside of restriction zones. The rule changes will allow Scotland and the UK to move to bluetongue-free status, thus allowing the free movement of animals with the associated cost savings, but continue to vaccinate against bluetongue. Currently, vaccinations are only allowed in areas subject to animal movement restrictions.

Alyn said:

"This is an excellent example of evidence-based policy-making with the legislation following the science after calm reflection of the best scientific advice balanced with the commercial needs of the industry as well as the animal health implications.

"There was good reason to restrict the use of vaccination a decade ago when the law was first introduced, as the vaccines available at the time, "live attenuated vaccines", carried the risk of undesirable circulation of the virus. Since that time, new inactivated vaccines have been developed, which do not pose such a risk. It makes sense to allow the wider use of these vaccines, outside of the restricted areas - giving farmers more flexibility and choice in determining how to protect their livestock, without having an expensive movement restriction regime imposed.

"Scotland has an excellent record in the fight against bluetongue. Our geography has helped, but we have been bluetongue-free since 2008, and monthly surveillance samples have shown that the disease is not circulating - we are well on the road to achieving complete bluetongue-free status. While we must continue to remain absolutely vigilant, in line with the precautionary principle, we also should be taking steps to relieve the pressure on our farmers, and the Commission's proposal, supported last night by the Agriculture Committee, will help achieve this."

Good News for Farmers on Place of Origin Labelling

Alyn has welcomed a vote in the Environment Committee (ENVI) which will make mandatory the labelling of country of origin for all meat, dairy, and single-ingredient products, as a triumph for Scottish farming's long-standing campaign on this issue.

The second reading of the Sommer Report for Food Information to Consumers, which passed through ENVI with an overwhelming majority, also called for the place of birth, rearing and slaughter to be labelled if different, and that the country of provenance for meat, dairy and fish products must be indicated if used as an ingredient in processed food.

Alyn said: "We've been kicking compulsory place of origin labelling forward for some time so it's good to see the European Parliament defend this point so strongly- especially at this stage in the negotiations where there can be a strong temptation to water down proposals in order to reach a compromise."

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