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The 2014 Annual Scottish Political Event
Presentation by Alyn Smith, MEP: Edinburgh meeting of 28 January 2014

Alyn Smith, MEP at the Edinburgh meeting having concluded his talk.d

Alyn Smith, MEP at the Edinburgh meeting having concluded his talk.

© John Yellowlees, 2014

"Since 1999 Scotland has comprised a single Euro-constituency which now returns 6 MEPs - currently two SNP, two Labour, one Lib Dem and one Conservative.

They rub along well in promoting Scotland's interests in Europe, and look to the Scottish electorate to make an intelligent distinction between the powers that are appropriate to the four levels of Government - local Councils, Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels.

If Scotland were to vote for independence, the rules of inverse proportionality could result in there being a dozen Scottish MEPs.

All things European are not the province of the EU, and for example human rights are a matter for the Council of Europe. The European Parliament functions through Committees to scrutinise budgetary and legislative proposals from the Commission, and it happens that none of the Scots is on the present Transport Committee.

Biggest item in the EU budget accounting for 40% of spend is the Common Agricultural Policy, which has been successful at delivering affordable food, and Alyn serves on the Agriculture Committee.

If the banks break down, we fix them as happened in 2008, but when the food supply breaks down there are riots, as the Arab Spring has all too grimly demonstrated. At a time of climate change which has necessitated the finding of new ways to maximise output, the CAP has enabled small communities to survive in rural areas which would otherwise be given over solely to second homes.

Alyn is also on the Industry Research and Energy Committee, and here Scotland really has hit the jackpot with a full range of energy options from fossil fuels to renewables. Horizon 20:20 funds under the Seventh Framework promote cutting-edge research and his membership of the Parliament's delegation to Norway and Iceland bring him contact with countries whose economies may be sustainable but whose experience demonstrates that membership of a European Economic Area outwith the EU may not be what is best for Scotland. Alyn belongs also the delegation to Saudi Arabia, where he spent his youth.

The Transport Committee delivers views on Commission proposals to Plenary sessions of the Parliament. Railway proposals due to be presented next month aim to promote safety and efficiency while removing obstacles to interoperability. The Single European Sky package goes to Plenary in March, and also well-advanced are new proposals on harmonisation of roadside inspections and roadworthiness tests for commercial vehicles. Trans European Networks promote investment for balanced growth in the regions of Europe, and can assume a significance that ranges from philosophical to theological. Logistics measures promote intermodal routes for efficient distribution.

If the EU had not existed, something similar would have had to be invented in order for global trading blocs to have an organisation with whom they can relate. Parliamentarians in Oslo or Reykjavik often have to accept the thrust of EU legislation while having very little input into its formulation.

It is incumbent on MEPs to raise our game in dealing with global forces of production, and members of anti-EU parties do their electorates a disservice by their reluctance to engage in the scrutiny of Commission proposals. The recent Minimum Rights directive shows what can be achieved by nations working together, but there is a groundswell of anti-EU opinion across the Continent which in some countries takes more extreme forms than in the UK - while the parochialism of much opposition to HS2 contrasts with the ambition of vision for Scottish transport in for example the maritime sector.

Unfortunately the Scottish media no longer has any full-time presence in Brussels (while the British media has shown itself recently more obsessed with President Hollande's private life than the French!), and while working out of the Scottish Parliament can help Alyn deliver seamless representation across the tiers of Government MEPs have to contend with voter apathy that in the last European elections saw a lower turnout than voted for evictions from the Big Brother House - it is to be hoped that there is greater interest on 23 May.

Report and photograph by John Yellowlees.

 

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