I recently took issue with the EU Commission for its insensitivity to Scotlandʼs vital interests. In a Strasbourg plenary debate I told European Commission Chief José Manual Barroso that the EC's failure to heed the concerns of the people of Scotland was to blame for the increasing unpopularity of EU policies in our country.
An opinion poll published in Scotland recently asked people how they would vote on the proposed EU constitution - the result was 35% in favour and 49% against. Only a few years ago we may well have expected a more positive response. Historically, Scotland has been more enthusiastic about engagement with the EU than certain other parts of the UK.
But in spite of all the talk in Brussels and Strasbourg since the fall of the discredited Santer Commission, about reconnecting with EU citizens, many people in Scotland increasingly see the policies coming out of the EU as insensitive and inappropriate to our communities.
Of course I'm referring principally to the disastrous handling of fisheries policy and the ridiculous proposal to further entrench control of Scotland's fisheries exclusively in Brussels as part of the new Constitution, but there's more to it than that. Our road transport industry, and ferry networks too, are being hampered by red tape from Brussels.
The forthcoming debate on the Services Directive will be highly controversial in Scotland. If Scotsʼ views are not taken into account, then the downward trend of support for the EU will continue. The Commissionʼs proposal on opening up the market in services seems to me to be a further attack on essential public sector provision of health, social care and education. The so-called 'country of origin' principle could lead to a reduction in quality. The directive raises fears of privatisation of public services by the back door.
This is yet another piece of legislation that fails to take proper account of the realities in Scotland. We have our own separate legal and regulatory framework, including the regulation and setting of standards in Social Service provision of care to vulnerable client groups. The European Commission would do well to be more sensitive to concerns, not just at the current member state level, but also recognise the particular interests of Scotland.
The proposed Services Directive will be the subject of heated debate in the European Parliament over the next few months.