Monday, 21 April 2008

Euro Candidate

The SNP met at the weekend for its annual Spring Conference - this time we were at Heriot Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The atmosphere was electric with over a 1,000 delegates – a sure sign of the party’s growing success and there was much to be cheery about after an extremely successful first year in government.

On the Saturday morning the party held its hustings for candidates going forward to represent the party at the European Parliament elections next June.

I am delighted that I got through to the last seven and thanks to all those who voted for me I am now a candidate. I am very much looking forward to getting out and about round the country, meeting with as many people as possible and getting on with the campaign. We have an excellent array of candidates who are all committed and will work hard. They are (in alphabetical order):

Cllr Drew Hendry

Ian Hudghton MEP

Anne McLaughlin

Aileen McLeod

Duncan Ross

Alyn Smith MEP

Cllr Grant Thoms

Below is the full text of the speech I made at the Euro Hustings:

Fellow Nationalists, I’m Dr Aileen McLeod.

I’ve been Alyn Smith’s head of European policy since he won his seat.

Alyn, as most of you will know, is incredibly hard working.

Not only in his summer work experience trips, but also across the country and in the parliament in Brussels and in Strasbourg all year round, and in nurturing Scottish contacts across Europe.

He never shies away from getting face to face with Commissioners and making sure they take Scotland into account

Alyn Smith and Ian Hudghton are making Europe work for Scotland.

I want to join Scotland’s team and follow in the footsteps of Dr Winnie Ewing, Dr Allan Macartney and Professor Neil MacCormick.

We will win 3 MEP seats next year – and I want to be one of the team.

I haven’t put my name forward for other elections because it’s Europe I’m focused on, I understand Europe, and it’s Europe where I can do the best job for the party.

I know how Europe works.

I know how to get into the Commission at all levels.

I know what it’s like being effective in Brussels.

I know how to make Europe work for Scotland.

Since the SNP Government entered office Scotland’s voice in Europe has become stronger and more effective.

This party and our Government are making an impact.

I could stand here this morning and tell you at great length about full ownership unbundling in the energy market.

And when you woke up you’d agree with me that it is one of the big issues facing Scotland.

Instead, though, I’ll talk about our successes in Europe.

Our political success in Europe has outstripped our football success – even allowing for Scotland beating France home and away.

First, Structural funds:

London wanted to dump Scotland’s funding and the Lib/Lab coalition didn’t argue.

Scotland’s party did.

We ensured that structural funds continued in areas where they will be of key economic and social benefit - including the Highlands and Islands where we won additional funding.

We didn’t quite win the South of Scotland, but that comes back in the next budget round.

Second, Ferries:

It’s the SNP MEPs working with our MPs and MSPs who have led the fight to save our lifeline ferries.

The problem wasn’t Europe, it was the Labour / LibDem coalition whose crass incompetence threatened the very services they should have been protecting.

That’s why Alyn Smith asked the Commission to investigate formally – to clear it up once and for all.

We’re confident he’s right.

Third, Ship-to-ship oil transfer:

To protect the environment in the Forth, we engaged European legislation on Habitats.

Our MEPs worked with our councillors and with environmental groups.

And Tricia Marwick and Bruce Crawford were eloquent when we brought them to Brussels to argue the case.

That’s making Europe work for Scotland.

And there have been other successes. We worked with Scotland’s farmers to improve the Common Agricultural Policy;

We got Brazilian beef banned on safety grounds;

We brought Commissioners to Scotland to see how we are pioneering green energy technology and talk with our University sector about research collaboration.

We were even part of the success in getting Europe-wide mobile phone charges reduced.

Making Europe work for Scotland.

SNP MEPs and their staff work hard to get support from MEPs from other countries for Scotland’s best interests.

For example, there’s that full ownership unbundling.

We’re not convinced that the break-up of Scotland’s energy companies is the best way forward.

We want Europe to consider the Scottish model – a system that encourages competition between energy producers and which would work better if it was in the hands of an independent Scottish government.

That’s better than a strategy which could undermine our energy companies and leave the consumer vulnerable to higher prices and supply interruptions.

Making Europe work for Scotland.

Past glories won’t keep us, though, there are challenges ahead.

Some come immediately to mind.

Climate change and energy policy.

These two issues cannot be separated.

How we generate energy impacts on the environment so climate change targets have implications for how we generate energy.

We will not accept nuclear power.

We want an energy future driven by clean energy sources.

That means renewables;

carbon capture;

and developing energy technologies that are environmentally sustainable.

Our commitment is clear in the ambitious targets our Ministers have already set.

There is a huge European dimension, but Europe should act only where there is clear added value in it doing so.

Scotland can become the green energy capital of Europe by ensuring that Scotland’s distinctive approaches to energy challenges and opportunities are recognised in European policy.

Structural funds

Post-2013 discussions are already underway in Brussels.

Scotland’s European funding was cut from £1.1 billion to £540 million under the 2007-2013 review.

Not because our rural and remote communities have experienced some dramatic economic upturn, unfortunately.

Many of the regions in the Highlands and Islands and in the South of Scotland continue to suffer considerable economic difficulties.

I find that shameful in a country as rich as Scotland, but it’s a cold hard fact and a bitter indictment of the UK’s mismanagement of our resources.

We have to make sure that the difficulties confronting those communities are recognised by Europe until we can solve the problems caused by the UK’s ignorance of the needs of Scotland.

Opening services to competition

Health care and a range of social services are coming under the beady eye of the so-called liberalisers.

Many of you will be familiar with GATS and its less desirable effects.

SNP MEPs have to ensure that any proposals brought forward for Europe recognise the specific Scottish context in which these services are provided.

Our MEPs will have to champion the specific Scottish needs for those services.

Remember, delegates the next five years will see major challenges confronting our MEPs

We have to make Europe work for Scotland and we have to prepare Europe for Scottish Independence

I have the experience, the expertise, the commitment and the know-how to make Europe work for Scotland and to make an independent Scotland work in Europe.

What I need now is your support.

Select me as an SNP candidate to let me get on with the job.

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