Euro News Monthly February 2011

Alyn out campaigning with Cllr Derek Mackay

This month I made the most of my time in Scotland and hit the campaign trail with Councillor Derek MacKay (above) who is running for the new Renfrewshire North and West constituency. I also spent a day with me old mucker Bruce Crawford in Stirling.

I also visited Pollock Credit Union to get an insight into their work and had a meeting with Alcohol Focus Scotland about alcohol labelling.

In other news this month, I welcomed news that the University of the Highland and Islands (UHI) has been awarded full university status. I have invited the Principle, Mr James Fraser, to visit Brussels to present the work of UHI to the European Parliament's Education and Culture Committee, of which I am a substitute member. Their road to university status and their approaches and methods to teaching are ones that many of my colleagues would no doubt find interesting and useful.

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Good EU News on Beef

Alyn commended a decision this month to extend the BSE testing range for cattle from 48 months to 72 in Scotland and the UK.

The EU's Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (comically abbreviated to "SCoFCAH") composed of experts from each Member State has analysed the evidence and agreed to raise the testing age, which will come into effect from July this year, assuming the European Parliament approves the move.

Alyn hosted a meeting last week in Brussels with the National Sheep Association and Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers looking for similar progress on sheep, and met with a positive response. Alyn has since written to the European Food Safety Agency and the UK TSE reference laboratory in Weybridge seeking some new impetus in the science.

Alyn said:

"This is good news, solid and sensible, and will see more legislative costs squeezed out of the food chain. Clearly, the legislation is there for a very good reason, but it has to be proportionate to the risk and this is a sensible move."

Improved Rights For Bus Passengers Welcomed

Alyn hailed a vote in Strasbourg to strengthen the rights of disabled bus and coach passengers, but expressed disappointment that the final text did not go further in implementing tougher rules for bus and transport companies in their treatment of disabled passengers.

The new regulation will only apply to journeys over 250 km but will include: new rights on access to travel information before and during the journey and the obligation for all bus and coach drivers to take part in disability awareness training as well as a right to compensation for damaged wheelchairs or other assistive equipment. The legislation will also cover cancellation, overbooking and departures delayed for more than two hours. The regulation is due to come into force in 2013.

Alyn said:

"The vote is an improvement on where we are, and will improve the lives of disabled and blind people travelling long distance in or from Scotland by bus and coach, and across the EU as a whole. Discrimination in access to transport is something that nobody should suffer, and in the same way as EU regulations have created and enforced rights on planes and railways, it is logical that buses and coaches should follow suit.

"However, while the vote is an improvement I am disappointed that the final text was not stronger. The final legislation sets out far inferior rights for bus passengers than is the case for passengers on rail services, air services or ferry services. This creates unfair competition between these transport modes and creates legal uncertainty that could lead to the European Court of Justice becoming the ultimate arbiter for these passengers' rights. This package is helpful as far as it goes, but this is unfinished business. We must continue to do more to ensure that equal access to transport becomes a reality for disabled people."

EU Recognition For Stornoway Black Pudding

Alyn has backed the Stornoway Black Pudding Producers' Association in the fight to see their product registered as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under the EU Protected Food Name Scheme.

Alyn has submitted a response to the Scottish Government consultation supporting the butchers of Stornoway.

Alyn said:

"Stornoway Black Pudding is indeed unique and, as such, is very deserving of this recognition. I am pleased to see more Scottish produce following in the same footsteps as the likes of Arbroath Smokies, going through PGI and I hope to see many more taking the same path."

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