Euro News Monthly October 2010

Alyn Smith speaking at the SNP conference

Well that's another SNP conference come and gone! Where is this year going? The picture above is me proposing to conference that we establish a benchmark index to compare the lives of the people of Scotland with those of the people of the Nordic Council countries. I'm delighted to say that the motion passed by acclaim.

In other news this month both Ian Hudghton and I abstained on proposals to extend EU maternity rights on the grounds that the EU should not play a role in setting domestic social policy, however well-intentioned. The controversial package was opposed by the UK government, business and local government organisations on similar grounds, though also that the associated costs of the move would have grave implications for public services and business at a time of economic upheaval. I want to see the people of Scotland with the best maternity and paternity rights in the world, but I want to see that agreed on a sustainable basis by the domestic authorities after a national debate, not introduced via the backdoor in Brussels in a way that will cause resentment of both the rights and the EU itself. This month I also welcomed a report drafted by my colleague, Greek MEP Georgios Papastamkos on EU and agricultural trade. The report looks into the consistency between EU agricultural and common commercial policies, agriculture in the multilateral trading system (including the Doha Development Agenda and WTO disputes) and also agriculture in plurilateral/ inter-regional/ bilateral trade relations. This is a solid report and greatly welcomed.

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Smith Hails Funding Boost for Aberdeenshire Farmers' Markets

SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has hailed the award of EU funds to a project in Aberdeenshire which will ensure that farmers' markets in the area continue to develop to their fullest potential. Aberdeenshire farmers' markets have been awarded funding from the EU through the LEADER programme for a two-year marketing and development programme.

The Scottish Farmers' Markets Partnership (SFMP) is an initial three-year support project which aims to promote, support and build the capacity of the farmers' markets sector in Scotland. The project is overseen by an Industry Steering Group, drawn from a wide range of stakeholder groups.

Smith said:

"This area is the birthplace of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle breed, now an international brand, and where better to buy your steaks than at your local farmers' market? This new funding will have an extremely positive impact on the development of farmers' markets across Aberdeenshire and will also help to revitalise local communities.

"In these uncertain times there can be no higher priority than food sovereignty, and the SNP's vision for agriculture sets a very clear objective of farmers producing quality local produce people want to eat, as well as tending to the environment by virtue of what they do. Our farmers' markets are key to this. This funding award is great news and will no doubt put Aberdeenshire on an even higher footing on the world culinary map and pave the way for a progressive, sustainable rural economy."

SNP Vote Against EU Budget Increase

SNP MEPs Alyn Smith and Ian Hudghton have voted to freeze the EU budget for 2011, in a fraught vote in Strasbourg which saw the amendment overwhelmingly defeated with 92 votes in favour of freezing the budget, against 564 in favour of an increase. The already programmed multiannual increase was approved by a majority of MEPs by a similarly massive margin.

The SNP duo voted against increases in budget lines which could stand a harder economic analysis of their value, and supported a range of money-saving measures, including the abolition of the ill-starred EU Galileo satellite project, agricultural export refunds and public support for the wine and alcohol industry.

Smith said:

"The budget votes are always complicated, but while we are approaching the end of a budget cycle we must surely recognise that the global economic picture has changed markedly, and some EU budgets could take a bit of squeezing.

"The process of reforming the EU's budget long term has only just commenced, and to vote through an increase today while this process is ongoing is premature, and sends a signal that MEPs are out of touch with the concerns of the people who elected them.

"Freezing the budget for next year would indeed be inconvenient for a number of projects, but some projects could do with a bit of a harder analysis and a number are in trouble in any event because of problems over domestic co-financing. Freezing the budget would also not prejudge how the long term negotiations on the budget will go, and these are only now beginning in earnest.

"It should be remembered that this is towards the end of a multiannual budget planning, so many of the figures being bandied about are not in fact increases, but increased allocations compared to last year, but still well within the overall financial perspectives. However, at a time when budgets in all areas of public life are being squeezed the EU should certainly not be immune."

Eilean A' Cheo a Hotspot for Tourists

map of the Isle of SkyeSNP MEP Alyn Smith, an alternate member of the Parliament's Culture and Education Committee, has welcomed news that the Isle of Skye has been named as one of the top island destinations in Europe.

Skye came eighth in the Top 10 European Islands category of Conde Nast Traveller's Readers' Choice Awards beating sunnier destinations -Sicily, and Hvar in Croatia. Three Scottish golf hotels, The Old Course hotel in St Andrews, the Turnberry resort and Gleneagles, were also named in the Top 20 European resorts category.

Smith said:

"The Isle of Skye is one of the most beautiful locations, with its rolling backgrounds, breathtaking views and rich culture. It therefore comes as no surprise that the 'Misty Isle' pipped other European hotspots to the post! It appears that Skye is not the limit and three golf hotels have also made it into the record books and are also flying the flag for Scottish tourism.

"The tourism sector is playing a vital role in Scotland's economic recovery and it makes strong economic sense to build on this success by spotlighting some of Scotland's greatest assets."

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