Euro News Monthly June 2010

SNP staff at the European Parliament

Where is this year going? I can't believe it is June already!

This month we had a SNP staff training day out in Brussels. I think it is important for Holyrood staff to understand the mechanics of the European Parliament and the Commission and I hope the trip served as a useful learning tool as well as a good team bonding exercise.

Last week, I met with stakeholders from across the agriculture sector at the Highland Show in Ingliston. It was great to have access to everyone in one place for a change, and I took the opportunity to chat to as many farming organisations as I could fit in to get a thorough insight into what the thoughts, problems and concerns are in the industry at the moment.

This month, I welcomed the news that the sale of illegal timber will be banned across the EU in 2012. Products manufactured from wood such as furniture, floorboards and casks are covered by the new legislation, with Scottish firms now required to perform due diligence and carry out risk assessments of wood products where illegal practice is suspected. I wrote to Kirkland High School and Community College in Fife to congratulate them for being one of the first two secondary schools in Scotland to be given the status of Rights Respecting Schools from UNICEF. A big well done to them.

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Commission Should Cotton on to the Eco Damage Caused by Cotton-Buds

On European Green Week, SNP MEP Alyn Smith is calling on the Commission to introduce a ban on the use of non-biodegradable material on the use of cotton-buds and other sanitary items, which are polluting Scotland's beaches and placing it high up Europe's litter league.

It is estimated that 340 million sanitary items are flushed down the toilet every year in Scotland. These materials cause problems throughout the waste water infrastructure causing blockages and damage to screens. Many of the items escape into the aquatic environment and wash up on beaches and riverbanks spoiling the aesthetics of our countryside. Smith said:

"It is astonishing to think that a raft of plastic litter larger than France is now floating in the Pacific Ocean. Tackling cotton-buds is an easy and achievable start to tackling the wider problem of plastics. I have lodged a PQ calling on the Commission to stop analysing data on the matter and act quickly and decisively to stop the situation worsening."

John Summers OBE, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful said:

"Keep Scotland Beautiful would support a ban on plastic sanitary items and cotton bud sticks, but in the meantime I would call upon manufacturers to brand such products with clear messaging about appropriate disposal methods and encourage everyone to think before they flush and bag and bin sanitary items instead of using our toilets as a wet bin."

Smith Calls for Calorie Labelling on Alcohol

Smith has called upon the European Commission to urge alcohol manufacturers across the EU to fall into line with other drinks products and provide full nutritional information on their products.

The European Parliament has just passed new legislation bringing all food and non alcoholic drinks into the nutritional labelling rules, yet alcohol was exempt. Smith is now putting pressure on drink companies to label the amount of calories on drinks so consumers are clued up on how many calories they are digesting through drink. Smith said:

"Many regard Scotland's national cuisine as a deep fried Mars Bars and a hearty dram. However, most Scots remain totally unaware of just how many calories they are consuming by drinking their favourite tipple. The drinks industry is keeping Scots consumers in the dark and hiding these facts and figures for a reason. If youngsters knew that seven alcopops was equivalent to six Mars Bars then they may just think twice.

"I'm not saying people shouldn't drink but if we are looking to change our cultural behaviour towards alcohol then having access to the real information on just what we are tipping down our necks may just shock and surprise figure conscious Scots."

4 pints of Stella = 5 bags of crisps, 1 bottle of WKD = 1 regular portion of McDonald's fires, 7 Bacardi Breezers = 6 Mars Bars, 1 large glass of wine = 1 jam doughnut, 2.5 pints of Guiness = 1 doner kebab

Smith Hails Euro Parliament Rat Poison Vote

Alyn Smith, full Scottish member of the European Parliament's powerful Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has hailed the vote on the biocides regulation in the Environment Committee as a "sensible compromise" on rat poisons. Smith also heavily criticised Conservative MEPs for running "one of the daftest scare campaigns of recent years."

Smith said:

"Just as I, and everybody sensible, anticipated, the Environment Committee did the right thing on rat poisons. There was never any serious suggestion that they were going to do otherwise. There was never any chance of the EU actually banning rat poison and they knew it. It is the classic example of unscrupulous politicians, looking for an easy media hit, whipping up popular anti-EU prejudices based on laziness and ignorance. "

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